Socializing this year comes with pandemic-related risks

In years past, Thanksgiving Eve has been a time to bar hop, but socializing this year also comes with pandemic-related risks.

The night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year, and law enforcement officers have extra patrols out, looking for speeders and impaired drivers throughout the holiday weekend.

“If you feel that you have had too much, you need to think about it. Think about the consequences that could happen if you do drive impaired and you end up getting into a crash and killing somebody or hurting somebody,” said Capt. Peter Bergstresser of Florida Highway Patrol.

Excessive drinking goes up around the holidays, and addiction specialists said the pandemic made alcohol consumption worse.

“Actually in the past few months, we've seen our alcohol admits doubled from what they were that previous year, so it's certainly alarming,” said John Templeton Jr., the president of Footprints Beachside Recovery Center in Treasure Island.

Studies on alcohol consumption show that binge drinking is up, so Templeton said families should be on the lookout for signs. 

“Somebody that was not a problem drinker 6 months ago could have very easily developed a problem, and they're unable to stop by themselves right now,” said Templeton.

The risks reach beyond excessive alcohol consumption and DUIs. Public health leaders said visiting bars right now increases your exposure to COVID-19 as infections continue to climb. While there are no restrictions in Florida, but other states like Pennsylvania banned alcohol sales on Wednesday night to curb the spread.

"We expect to start seeing people getting sick a week after Thanksgiving, and we expect two weeks after Thanksgiving to really see the numbers at our hospitals rise," said Daniel Griffin, the ProHEALTH Care chief of infectious disease.

Last year, FHP troopers wrote nearly 70,000 tickets during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday.