The pandemic is disrupting the holiday season. What might your Thanksgiving look like?
The last time I saw my grandma was in May, when my dad and I dropped groceries off at her assisted living home. We placed them on a table like some kind of offering, stepped back and waited. She came downstairs, mask too big for her small face and picked them up. I waved awkwardly and tried my best to smile with my eyes.
“I wish I could hug you,” she said.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many are wondering what is safe to do, how many people is too many people, and how old is too risky. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older. This means a lot of peoples’ grandparents can’t safely be included in this year’s festivities.
Lifestyle magazines are encouraging people to think about ways to reimagine Thanksgiving. An article, specifically about how to include your grandparents and older relatives this Thanksgiving, on Martha Stewart’s website suggests creating “new virtual traditions,” such as “reading a favorite holiday story, singing carols, [or] putting on a play.”
If you are dead set on hosting a large gathering, Stewart recommends you try to have it outside, or even rent a room at a local clubhouse.
There’s no point in pretending that a Zoom Thanksgiving is anywhere near the same as an in-person one. There’s something special about being in a house with all of your family, smelling the food as it cooks. There’s something about all the different conversations, and the way people can talk politics in the kitchen and football in the room next door. Zoom Thanksgiving is one room, one screen and only one person can talk at a time before things get too chaotic. Sadly, the reality is that a large family dinner with people coming from all over the country is just not practical right now.
The CDC categorizes the types of activities families may engage in this year according to risk: lower risk activities, moderate risk and higher risk. Lower risk activities include things like having a small dinner with only people who live in your household and watching sports events, parades and movies from home. Higher risk activities include attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
Everyone I’ve talked to about their Thanksgiving plans has a similar answer: It’ll just be them, their parents, any siblings who haven’t moved out yet and a Zoom call to extended family.
“My family isn’t having our normal 60-70 person Thanksgiving in Delaware this year,” my friend Kelly told me. “My brother isn’t flying home, so I think it’s just gonna be four of us at my house.”
Travel restrictions are another factor that will limit peoples’ gatherings. Some states like Delaware have no restrictions, while others require visitors to complete a travel form after arrival. If you choose to travel, the CDC says it’s important to wear a mask on public transportation, avoid close contact with others and use hand sanitizer often — with at least 60% alcohol.
Maybe reimagined Thanksgiving won’t be so bad. There are some perks, like only having to get dressed from the waist up, or inviting people who normally couldn’t make it because they live too far away.
No matter what your Thanksgiving looks like this year, it’s important to stay safe. Get tested before you travel, especially if you’ll be seeing people who are high-risk. Keep up with the state you’re traveling to and how many cases they have.
I’ll be going to drop off turkey and mashed potatoes for my grandma, six feet away, masks on.