Public health officials are urging caution heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as new cases of the coronavirus continue to rise.

The Texas Department of State Health Services added eight new cases and one fatality in Nacogdoches County on Thursday bringing the cumulative total since the pandemic began to 1,915 cases. That’s 51 new cases since Nov. 13. So far, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed 77 county residents.

The state did not publish Friday’s total by 4 p.m., the customary time when health officials release daily numbers.

Health organizations large and small are asking people to stay vigilant during the holiday season.

“Remember, traditional gatherings with family and friends can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” local emergency management spokeswoman Amy Mehaffey said in an email. “We encourage you to evaluate your plans this Thanksgiving and make the best decisions to keep your family and community healthy.”

Mehaffey’s advice mirrors that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Each individual family unit needs to make a risk benefit assessment for what they want to do with the holidays. It will be different for each person and each family unit,” Fauci said Tuesday during the online DealBook summit presented by the New York Times. “If you have in your family vulnerable individuals, the elderly or people who are immunosuppressed, obese, diabetes, heart disease, you have to ask yourself for this particular holiday season do you really want to take the risk of endangering the health and the life of a loved one, or do you want to say you know, maybe this time we’ll have a much smaller gathering?”

Since local totals are based on county of residence, they don’t necessarily include the cases at Stephen F. Austin State University where many students claim residency elsewhere. According to the university, 23 students or staff who were recently on campus have tested positive for the virus and are actively contagious.

SFA will move its classes online after the Thanksgiving break, which began Friday. So far, the university says it will start the spring semester in January with the same precautions that were in place this fall.

Two drugmakers — Pfizer and Moderna — have announced successful trials of vaccines to prevent the virus and are poised to apply for emergency use permits with the next few weeks.

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