On this Thanksgiving, Michelle Preble plans to fly from her home in Clackamas County, Oregon, to Texas to share a holiday dinner with her mother and brother Donnie, who is in home care for a hospice. After a lifetime of severe epilepsy due to brain damage he suffered at birth, 43-year-old Donnie was told by doctors that he did not have much time left.
But because of the pandemic, the 48-year-old Preble made the painful choice not to go – even though she hadn’t seen her brother since last Thanksgiving and didn’t know when she would see him next.
“As much time as there is still, I want to be as much of it as possible, and the inability to be heartbreaking,”
As Thanksgiving approaches, senior health officials are urging people not to travel or to hold large gatherings to avoid contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.
Many people, like Preble, listen to this advice. But the game can surely come with a sense of grief over the loss of cherished holiday traditions and time with those who matter most to them.
“We know this is a painful decision because many people have been isolated and lonely during the pandemic,” said Tenner Goodwin Venema, a professor and visiting scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “But as the number of hospitalizations increases, we are really forced to look at implementing some serious disease control strategies.”
With small gatherings in private residences contributing to an explosion in coronavirus cases, experts say the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with members of your own household or through Zoom if you want to connect with family and friends. elsewhere.
Not everyone respects this. But there is sadness among those who are canceling their traditional turkey dinners – both the need to miss Thanksgiving with their extended families and the scale of the pandemic in the country, which now has more than 250,000 coronavirus deaths.
“I feel hopeless,” said Marcelous Adams, 26, a financial crime investigator in Plainfield, Illinois. “I feel there is no end date.”
Adams usually spends Thanksgiving at his 86-year-old grandmother’s house with about 30 other relatives. It’s her grandmother’s favorite holiday, she said, but the family has agreed not to get together this year. Adams is both frustrated and relieved.
“Everyone enjoys camaraderie and family, of course, but at what cost? Health? “She said.” Death is the worst thing ever, so I will take all precautions. “
Preble will also have a reduced Thanksgiving. In addition to not joining her family in Texas, she and her husband will not eat with their two adult sons, although they both live half an hour away by car. Preble has rheumatoid arthritis, which compromises her immune system and makes her vulnerable to complications of Covid-19, so she is very careful.
“I never imagined that as a mother I would be able to tell my children, ‘You can’t come to Thanksgiving dinner,'” Preble said.
However, her sons understand and instead will stop for quick health outdoors with masks.
“I’ll put a plate on the door and hit my elbow a few times,” Preble said.
When your big dinner breaks the law
Although all 50 countries are reporting an increase in Covid-19 cases, it can be tempting to host big Thanksgiving dinners – and many will still do so. Nearly two in five Americans are likely to attend a gathering of more than 10 people on Thanksgiving, according to a study published this month by Wexner University Medical Center in Ohio. One in three hosts will not ask guests to wear masks, the study found. .
Thanksgiving comes at a particularly difficult time since the pandemic, as lower temperatures in much of the country limit the possibility of safe outdoor collection. Cases are already skyrocketing and many people are experiencing “caution fatigue” – becoming desensitized to warnings of exhaustion from safety guidelines, said Jackie Golan, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. research on how to make better decisions.
Social events such as holidays can distort people’s judgment, Golan said.
“Being part of social groups is a very powerful factor that can hinder our common sense or our beliefs at risk of Kovid,” Golan said. “This year is very different and can be dangerous to our health or the health of others if we follow these traditions.”
Hosting a significant Thanksgiving dinner group may also be against the law. In various states, including New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, meetings are currently limited to 10 people, even in private residences, in an attempt to combat the “living room spread” of Covid-19. The houses are not well ventilated, which can reduce heating bills, but create an environment in which the coronavirus can thrive.
Still, some see their Thanksgiving gathering as unprofitable, and they do their best to reduce the risk as they continue the tradition.
“I would move mountains so I could enjoy a vacation with my family.”
Lisa Tyrone, 49, will host a dozen family members, including her parents, at her home in Blairstown, New Jersey. Tyrone, who owns a company that offers cooking classes and parties, will use disposable plates and utensils; it will have a hand sanitizer and air filters located around the house; and it plans to open windows and sliding doors to improve air circulation. It will also measure the temperatures of its guests on arrival.
“I would move mountains so I could enjoy a holiday with my family,” Tyrone said, adding that she had asked her relatives not to keep in close contact with other people from today until Thanksgiving to limit their chances of exposure. . “I feel extremely well with the precautions we are taking.”
Much of what Tirone does meets the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for those who spend their holidays with people outside their household. If you have Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home, the Federal Health Agency recommends avoiding entering and leaving areas where food is prepared and wearing a mask when not eating. The CDC also encourages Thanksgiving meals outdoors by designating a person to serve food and setting expectations ahead of time about how to celebrate safely.
Many Americans are expected to be tested for Covid-19 in the days before Thanksgiving as a safety precaution before assembling. Long lines had already begun to form on the test sites; Quest Diagnostics, one of the country’s largest commercial laboratories testing Covid-19, says it has seen only a slight increase in test lead time so far.
“False sense of security”
All precautions may not be enough.
“I think we all fall asleep in a false sense of security when we consider inviting our closest friends and even biological family members who do not live with us – because we know them and have a sense of shared values that can We would be safe, “said Goodwin Venema of the Johns Hopkins Health Security Center.
Rusty Hilst, 77, is a longtime high school analysis teacher in Hutchinson, Kansas, who quit his summer job due to worries about the coronavirus. In recent months, he has had two fears in which the people he spent time with on the golf course subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, and he took no more risks. On this Thanksgiving, Hilst will be alone, skipping dinner with relatives at his brother’s home for the first time in about 25 years.
“I’m not saying that if I have it, I won’t survive it, but I don’t want to try this situation,” he said.
Instead, Hilst will have a quiet holiday at home.
“I’m probably going to try to find some sports, maybe a movie, and brag about something a step or two above McDonald’s,” he said with a laugh. A few days later, he reconsidered his plans and decided to indulge in Thanksgiving food from a country club restaurant.
Part of what sustains Hilst’s spirit is the hope that he will be able to spend the next Thanksgiving with his family, especially given the promising data on the Covid-19 vaccines that are under development.
In Oregon, meanwhile, Preble kept in touch with his mother and brother in Texas through daily phone calls and video chats. She has no doubt that she is making the right decision by staying at home and urging others to do the same.
“It seems that this should be a problem for everyone,” she said. “Imagine sitting across the table from your grandmother or your great uncle or cousin and imagine that this place is empty next year.”
“Is sharing pumpkin pie together worth it being the last piece of pumpkin pie you share with a family member?” She asked. “It’s so simple.”