Do You Have a Thanksgiving Plan?

Coronavirus is roaring back. Last week, the US averaged 53,000 new infections per day. This week, that’s up to 59,000. According to the New York Times, experts forecast hitting 75,687 new infections per day in the near future. That’s the highest rate in the US from back in July. It could go higher in the winter when conditions are ripe for viral spread.

“The newest surge sets the stage for a grueling winter that will test the discipline of many Americans who have spent warmer months gathering in parks and eating outdoors, where the virus is known to spread less easily.”

We’ll be spending more time indoors. It is flu season. There are potential micro-spreader events via Trick-or-Treat, Thanksgiving, and Christmas family and faith gatherings.

Again from the New York Times:

Along with cold-season gatherings moving into more confined spaces, there is evidence that the coronavirus is more virulent in colder weather and lower relative humidities. Dr. Mohammad Sajadi, who studies infectious diseases at the University of Maryland, was among the researchers who examined global trends in the early part of the pandemic and saw a weather correlation.

Dr. Sajadi said there could be a range of factors: Researchers have found that some viruses persist longer in colder and drier conditions; that aerosolized viruses can remain more stable in cooler air; that viruses can replicate more swiftly in such conditions; and that human immune systems may respond differently depending on seasons.

Now this is the science part, the part more people will ignore both because it is complicated and because it is inconvenient. The reality is that we have to fall back on the old standards – stay home as much possible, wash our hands, don’t socialize with people who are not in our household unless everyone is wearing a mask and maintaining a six foot distance, and wear masks.

This brings new challenges. Most residences do not allow for six feet distances between multiple people. In my home, someone could stand in the kitchen and another person stand in the living room, but you cannot see one another and it is far from ideal or pleasant. It works for maintenance and service visits, but that’s it. We’ve had a few people over to visit outside, but that brings the issue of having one bathroom up as well as the reality that the bathroom is usually occupied by a foster cat.

Wearing masks in our homes is a new practice. Unlike an outdoor gathering, if one person refuses to wear a mask or removes it or slips it under their nose, everyone is immediately compromised in a confined space. Many of us experience typical viral respiratory issues that make wearing a mask in a warm environment incredibly uncomfortable – I know this from being in the car. Our capacity to tolerate these restrictions depend upon our acknowledgment of the science and willingness to do what it takes to have this social time with loved ones.

On the flip side, we all have someone in our family who won’t follow these guidelines whether they are elders or otherwise. Setting boundaries from November to potentially April or May will be incredibly difficult. Family dynamics that are dysfunctional or unhealthy may quickly worsen, especially if we depend on these folks. If your brother drives you to work and won’t wear a mask in the car, what do you do? If your father is your babysitter and won’t wear a mask at home, what do you do? If Grandma’s hearing is poor and she can’t hear you through your mask sitting across the room? If Sunday dinner is a requirement in your extended family regardless of pandemics? If your kids struggle to keep themselves occupied? If you are going out of your skin from being cooped up in the house 24/7?

With Thanksgiving a month away, it is essential for you to have potentially difficult conversations with your family, friends, and household about this holiday during a pandemic.

For most of us, this involves a meal and family time whether that’s watching sports ball or a holiday movie. People bring food contributions, people talk politics, we are expected to be nice to offbeat relatives, and people drink. It is like a COVID-19 micro spreader factory, multiplied by the millions.

The best way to give thanks for your family is to keep them safe by staying in your individual households this year. Wearing masks in the house is helpful, but most homes do not allow for consistent six foot perimeters. Both are necessary when you are inside with other people.

Proximity creates temptation – to hug grandma, to get down and play with the kids, to snuggle up with your cousin and catch up. A crowd and the TV and the kids playing creates ambiant noise that might make a mask or a six foot conversation difficult. If the kitchen is small or medium, the desire to be helpful can be a problem. And if one person has to do all of the work, that’s not cool.

Some alternative ideas

  • Dine at home at the same time and use Zoom during your meal to interact.
  • Makes plates up to do no-contact distributions and porch-drops.
  • Dine on your own and schedule a family Zoom for the evening to discuss your days and visit.
  • Dine on your own and visit relatives if you can all wear masks, stay six feet apart, and perhaps open a window.

We’ve decided to order our dinner from a local restaurant and zoom with family at some point in the day. Over the weekend, we’ll visit Ledcat’s mom – her living room/dining room is over 15 feet long so we can wear masks inside, crack open a window, and visit without food. If we do want to eat something, she has a kitchen and small family room that we can use to maintain distance.

Basically, I expect people to say that its not like a real Thanksgiving – EXACTLY. We haven’t been in a pandemic since 1919. We haven’t lost 219,000 neighbors to a virus and we haven’t had 8.2 million infections in previous years. So we can acknowledge that it is a different time and make adjustments OR we can deny reality and put our most loved ones at risk.

What is your Thanksgiving plan?

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