Thanksgiving in Jeopardy: COVID-19 is Impacting Family Celebrations in Havertown and Nationwide

Antonio Meloni

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Eight months after its arrival in the United States, COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions of Americans. In this past year, sporting events, concerts, and even schools have faced never-before-seen challenges due to the global pandemic. The School District of Haverford Township historically began its school year virtually and transitioned into a hybrid model of education. Although this transition is a positive step, the coronavirus is now raging throughout the country, recording over 100,000 new cases a day. With the prospect of a long, hard winter ahead, many upcoming events are at risk. 

Recently, families in Havertown celebrated Halloween. However, this traditional holiday celebration faced significant challenges. The CDC advised those who participated in Halloween activities to wear masks with costumes, distribute candy outdoors, and practice social distancing.

Ultimately, Halloween was celebrated with many mixed emotions regarding these regulations. More COVID-19 safety protocols are now recommended for future holidays as well, including Thanksgiving. Low-risk activities include eating with only the people residing in your household, having a virtual dinner with extended family members, and shopping online instead of in-person during Thanksgiving weekend. The CDC strongly recommends these activities due to their minimal risk level for spreading COVID-19. 

Moderate risk activities involve having outdoor celebrations with some extended family and visiting orchards and farms. These activities allow families to gather in larger groups and participate in traditional Thanksgiving and fall festivities. Activities with moderate risks, however, do have significantly greater rates of transmission than lower-risk activities. 

The last and most traditional options for Thanksgiving celebrations listed by the CDC are labeled as higher risk activities. This includes attending large indoor dinners, shopping in busy stores during Thanksgiving weekend, and attending public events such as parades. These celebrations have the greatest risk and the highest chance to spread the coronavirus.

All three levels are distinct from each other and have significant differences in their risk rates. Because of these differences, many families in America, and Havertown specifically, are faced with tough decisions in regards to celebrating one of the most universal and popular holidays in the country. In order to keep family members safe, low-risk activity options are becoming increasingly widespread. 

“Usually, I go to my grandparents’ house, but this year I’m celebrating with the people in my own house,” explained Junior Ethan Fingerhut. He and his family plan on having a smaller scale celebration instead of seeing extended family. 

Junior Joshua Mintzer similarly described his plans. “I plan on celebrating with my close family and my brother who is coming home from college,” he said. When asked about the feasibility of having a “virtual” Thanksgiving, Mintzer said, “I mean it’s doing what you can; we might zoom with our extended family who live far away. It will obviously not be the same experience.” 

“I would never eat on video, but a general FaceTime during Thanksgiving is a great habit. Although face-to-face interaction should not be replaced,” explained AP Psychology teacher Gregory Decina. Humans rely on close social interactions and, as Decina said, FaceTime calls could never replace physically being in front of a family member. However, in light of the global pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 245,000 Americans, technology is the safest substitute for personal contact. 

What does this all mean? Is the CDC being realistic about the practicality of low-risk celebration options? Based on the responses from Haverford High School students, it is clear that many will be spending the holiday season with immediate family only. In order to make sure that loved ones remain safe, many families do not mind celebrating with a smaller group. While the CDC’s recommendation to have a virtual Thanksgiving may seem extreme, smaller-scale examples of this virtual celebration idea are likely to take place in a majority of households throughout Havertown and America in general. Using Zoom for video-calls makes visiting with extended family and friends possible. No matter how one plans to celebrate this Thanksgiving, the most important part of planning should be to do everything possible to stay safe during this holiday season.

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