DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas hospital officials, elected leaders and infectious disease experts are urging people to avoid big Thanksgiving celebrations Thursday, Nov. 26.

Across the Metroplex, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing.

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“So if we throw a whole lot more tinder on this fire, we are definitely going to shoot up even faster and even more,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, Chief Medical Officer at Parkland Hospital.

According to Dr. Chang, current data shows about 13% of people testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the virus.

“What that means is one out of eight are going to be carrying COVID,” he said. “So if your group is 15 or 20 people, you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to have someone in there who has COVID and is asymptomatic and spreading.”

That’s why medical experts are encouraging people to opt out of Thanksgiving dinners with people who live outside their home, as tough as it may be.

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“I really think at this point we can see there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Diana Cervantes, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at UNTHSC. “We just have to hang in there, in the big scope of our lives, for just a little bit longer to really protect ourselves, our families, and everyone around us.”

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If not, the consequences could be dire.

“We’re already in a pretty critical place,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Right now, our healthcare heroes are exhausted and we’re right at our peaks of what we’ve ever seen before in both our ICU beds and our COVID beds.”

Judge Jenkins says everyone has to do their part to make sure Thanksgiving doesn’t become a superspreader event.

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“We will get to our breaking point and then we turn into another El Paso or New York and that’s not going to be a good situation,” said Dr. Chang.

They encourage people to utilize curbside grocery store pickup to avoid crowds, hang out with loved ones outdoors if you’re set on meeting up, and wear your mask.

“It’s going to be a smaller Thanksgiving, but we’ve still got a lot to be thankful for,” he said.

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Caroline Vandergriff