This Thanksgiving is different. Yes, it’s been a rough year. Yes, we all miss one another. But if you love your family, it’s worth skipping this holiday season to make sure they’ll be alive and healthy for the next one.
While we were stressing about election night lasting five damn days, the coronavirus was having a great time rampaging across the country. We hit our first 100,000-case day on October 30; yesterday there were 143,408 newcases. We’re losing over 1,000 people each day to this virus.
Hospitalizations are up too. So is percent positive, a critical measure of both spread and test availability. Deaths lag behind cases and hospitalizations, and they’re starting to tick up right on schedule. Shit is getting bad, and holiday travel is only going to make it worse. The midwest and northern U.S. are now the places with the most cases relative to population. Some hospitals are running up against their ICU capacity again, but capacity isn’t just about beds. North Dakota faces such a shortage of hospital staff they are allowing nurses to stay on the job even if they test positive for COVID.
It will take a lot of work as a community to make things better, but the one thing we can do on an individual level, right now, is not make things worse.
Your safety measures suck
Do not travel. Do not have a get-together. I know, you think you’re special and it’s everyone else who is driving the spread of COVID. No, actually, it could very well be you.
Everybody is getting tested? Well, don’t forget that you can test negative and then get the virus, and that even after you’re infected you will still test negative for a few days. Remember that routine COVID tests didn’t protect the president, because tests alone are not a prevention strategy.
Your Thanksgiving will be “socially distant”? Good luck with that. If you live in a warm place, and you hold the entire gathering outside, and people really truly do follow the rules on distance and masking, then that’s a great plan. But very few families will be able to pull that off. Are people going to be cooking together in the kitchen? Repeatedly going into the same bathroom? Getting a little too close once they’ve had a few drinks?
In most parts of the country, we’ll be indoors. Masks don’t save you if you’re sharing the same air with a bunch of people all day. You take off your mask to eat anyway, don’t you? Think about it: restaurants and bars are among the biggest drivers of COVID spread. Thanksgiving dinner has a lot in common with a restaurant meal, except that it’s worse because you’re there longer, and your dining companions have often flown or road-tripped in from various hotspots across the country.
Canada has their Thanksgiving in October, the same day we observe Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Those Thanksgiving celebrations last month probably caused the uptick in cases in that country a few weeks later.
Can we learn from experience for once? Mid-pandemic holiday gatherings are a terrible, terrible idea. Better to call your mom on Zoom, roast that duck you always wanted, and do your part to make 2021 a less deadly year.