Saturday, November 27, 2021

Families grapple with how to navigate the second Thanksgiving pandemic | AP News

(AP) – In the spring, Pauline Criel and her cousins ​​talked about a Thanksgiving reunion at her home near Detroit after many painful months of seclusion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the virus had a different plan. Michigan is now the country’s hot spot. Hospitals there are overcrowded with patients, and schools are cutting down on full-time education. The resurgent virus has pushed the number of new infections in the US to 95,000 daily, hospitals in Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are also under pressure, and health officials are pleading with unvaccinated people not to travel.

Kriel’s big family feast has been postponed. She roasts a turkey and whips a pistachio down salad – an annual tradition – but only for her, her husband, and two grown boys.

“I’m going to put on elastic pants and eat too much – and no one gives a damn about that,” she said.

Her story reflects the Thanksgiving dilemma faced by families across America, as gatherings are burdened with the same political and coronavirus debate that grips other arenas.

When gathering for turkey, filling, mashed potatoes and pie, they are faced with a list of questions: can they have big get-togethers again? Can they get together at all? Should unvaccinated family members be invited? Should they require a negative test result before a guest is allowed to sit at the dinner table or on the couch after a football day?

“I know it might be overkill that we don’t share Thanksgiving here with my cousins, but it’s better to play it safe than sorry, right?” said Kriel, the 58-year-old financial company’s data administrator.

Jocelyn Ragusin, an accountant based in Littleton, Colorado, is taking a different approach, favoring family time over COVID-19 fears, even as rising cases and overcrowded hospitals have prompted new mask requirements in the area this week. Denver. Ragusin, whose husband contracted the virus and spent four days in an intensive care unit in October 2020, said she is willing to accept a certain level of risk in order to regain a sense of community.

She said that about seven or eight family members would gather for the holiday, and that the group did not discuss each other’s vaccination status in advance, in part because they “partly know” who had been vaccinated and who had already contracted the virus.

“The meeting is worth it. And get together, and have dinner together, and live together, ”said Raguzin, picking up her mother at the Denver airport. “We’re just not made to live in isolation.”

The desire to bring family and friends together for Thanksgiving was evident Wednesday in San Francisco, where a line at one grocery store stretched outside the door and around the corner.

Marie Arreola was queuing up to buy the ingredients for making a tamale for a meal that would also include salsa, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy. She sees the gathering of 12 family members this year as a symbol of hope for an improvement. A year ago, she spent Thanksgiving with just her husband, mom and one daughter.

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“We felt really disconnected and we all lived our lives of fear, and every time you left the house it felt like a scene of an apocalypse,” said a San Francisco-based technical consultant last year. “It was really scary, but now it’s different.”

Even at the best of times, Thanksgiving has always been a difficult occasion for Nadia Brown, a political science professor at Georgetown University, who loathes awkward and divisive talk about politics, race, and other hot topics. COVID-19 only made the holiday worse.

She and her husband had hoped to raise a large family for Thanksgiving at their home near Silver Spring, Maryland, but the outbreak of the winter wave and lingering fears of a breakout thwarted those plans. She recently told her father and his family – even if they are vaccinated – that they must get tested to prove they are virus-free, or skip Thanksgiving dinner.

Since two of Brown’s three daughters, 2 and 4, cannot get vaccinated, she does not want to risk it – “because we do not know the long-term consequences of COVID for children,” she explained.

Her decision means her father, Dr. Joseph Brown, will not be leaving his home about three hours away in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The dentist is vaccinated, but said that he did not have time to get tested.

“It’s too painful for me. I want to see my grandchildren, ”said Joseph Brown, adding:“ I understand her situation. I really do that. “

Riva Letchinger, who witnessed the devastating effects of the pandemic as a medical student, dropped her worries and traveled from her New York home to Washington DC to resume Thanksgiving celebrations with her family. They missed a meeting last year.

She said she was reassured that everyone was vaccinated and got boosted, but she also worries about her own viral status, even though she is fully vaccinated.

“I have a constant fear of hurting someone in my family or getting sick because I see so many COVID patients every day,” she said.

Despite his misgivings, Letchinger looks forward to the annual family ritual, which includes a generous selection of Jewish favorites such as golumpkis or cabbage rolls her late Aunt Susie brought for Thanksgiving.

But the celebration will also have a gloomy shade. The family lost two loved ones to Holocaust survivors following clashes with COVID-19 last year.


Associated Press author Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this report from San Francisco.

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