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If you are unable to visit the family due to the COVID-1

9 pandemic, organize a virtual Thanksgiving dinner instead.

USA TODAY

For Jennifer Broderick, the decision to spend Thanksgiving alone was surprisingly simple.

Her mother is a cardiology nurse, her sister works in a nursing home, and Broderick teaches in person as an assistant professor of biology at Teal College in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Because they all interact with people outside their close families every day, exposing them to COVID-19, Broderick said he would stay home.

She can cook a turkey “together” with her family through Zoom, or think of making an unconventional dish on this unconventional holiday: taco.

“Because I take care of my family and friends, that’s something I can do to protect them,” Broderick, 29, said. “If we can do a good job in quarantine now, it could help reduce of numbers so I can at least think about (seeing them during) Christmas. “

The coronavirus pandemic has spread out of control with more than 250,000 Americans killed, closing schools in the country and the nation, setting a new record for infections several times in the past week. This has led people to rethink their Thanksgiving plans, with many choosing to eat food known only to the community and family.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to keep dinner on Thursday small – ideally only with people who already live in their household, and to avoid traveling for the holiday. A bipartisan group of governors and mayors are urging people to follow this advice, arguing that it is more important to be safe now and wait for the many vaccines in production to be finalized.

These recommendations made this holiday season difficult as families negotiated basic rules for social exclusion, how to share meals, and whether the whole thing should be stopped. Approximately one-third of Americans live in single-person households, according to the census.

Taylor Edwards, 28, a digital marketing coordinator in Chicago, is still unsure if she will eat alone on Thursday. Her parents are divorced and live in different parts of the city. Edwards stayed mostly at home and kept away from her parents to follow instructions, but this was a difficult decision on such a time-honored holiday.

Every passing day makes this decision even more difficult, as COVID-19 cases spread to its Midwest, where Gov. JB Pritzker ordered a new round of restrictions beginning on Friday after COVID’s average daily deaths -19 in the country increased from 37 per day in October to 84 per day so far in November, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. For now, Edwards plans to visit her parents for a short time, but she has a backup plan: she will stay home, cook a dish with Raman pasta she found online, and open a bottle of red wine.

The lack of a turkey, she says, is intentional.

“I’m trying to remove the emotional connections from this time period,” she said. “I’m definitely not in the mood. I just know that so many people keep moving forward with Thanksgiving with 10 or 12 people, and I’m like, ‘God, you have kids from college, you have adult family members.’ “

“This time next year we can be in a much better place and I want all members of my family to be there.”

In Asheville, North Carolina, Lindsay Ann Spurgeon will be shared on Thanksgiving by another type of family: her group Alcoholics Anonymous.

The 41-year-old has been sober for just over a year, but the pandemic has made it particularly exhausting as most AA meetings have been canceled. One of her groups tried to arrange a meeting outside, but it was difficult with all the roaring cars. They’ve held meetings through Zoom, but Spurgeon said it doesn’t provide nearly the same kind of support as face-to-face meetings.

The holiday season is one of the most dangerous for people in recovery, given all the social gatherings that encourage drinking, the cold weather that drives people inside and the emotions associated with the holidays. That’s why her group held a one-day meeting last year on Thanksgiving. Spurgeon is sad that it cannot happen again in 2020.

“These meetings are life or death,” Spurgeon said. “For me, it’s mostly the social aspect of having mutual assurance that we’re all well, that we’re doing everything right, that if I want to drink, I can call anyway or crash into someone’s house and drink coffee and talk. together. But we really can’t do that now. “

For many elderly people in the country it is not necessary to make a decision – only nutrition is just a way of life in 2020.

Ellen Gotke, 72, is retired, widowed, ill and estranged from what is left of her family. She shut herself off from her friends to protect herself from the coronavirus, spending all her days in her mobile home in Lothian, Pennsylvania.

The all-encompassing silence is agonizing for Gotke. One of her first tasks was to control the old telephone boards, which are now only seen in classic movies. The work was exhausting, taking calls all day, plugging in different cables to connect people to different parts of the country. But she loved working for one simple reason: “I could talk to people.”

And while Thanksgiving was a big event for her family, as Gotke cooked turkey and ham every year, she plans to spend the holiday alone with a turkey microwave dinner and dressing.

“It’s awful. It’s just awful,” she said as she struggled with tears. “And then I get so angry when I see people walking around without masks. It’s hard.”

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About 27% of adults aged 60 and over live alone, according to the Pew Research Center. Mark Butcher has seen these numbers played on his mobile phone in recent days.

The co-owner of the Washington-based restaurant group Medium Rare has offered to deliver a Thanksgiving meal to anyone over 70 years in quarantine. A similar effort during Mother’s Day reported 225 requests. This time? It has already reached 1,000 meal requests.

“The original intention was to do something uplifting and to give back and be grateful for everything we have,” Bucher said. “But honestly, we learned that older people are neglected.”

Butcher said his mailbox was flooded with tragic stories of elderly people suffering alone. He was even called by the Washington, D.C. government, offered packages of personal protective equipment to deliver with food, and asked his drivers to report the condition of the elderly people they visited.

The volume of requests has made this Thanksgiving an all-consuming endeavor, working with DoorDash to find enough drivers, order enough food and talk to private donors who want to help. Bucher has already set up an online fundraiser to help deliver food throughout the pandemic, and said these donations would be crucial to help all seniors who have asked him for hot food.

“It’s a burden, but for whatever strange reason, I see it as an obligation,” Bucher said. “I feel we need to make this happen.”

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