NationalStacy M. Brown

Pandemic Forces Families’ Thanksgiving Traditions to Online Platforms

Honey-baked ham, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and candied yams.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, many Americans can almost smell the aroma of the love-infused meals. Some can imagine the taste that comes after biting into desserts – from red velvet cake to sweet potato pie or banana pudding.

Then, there remain those who anticipate watching gridiron matchups, laughing at the latest incarnation of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or snuggling into their favorite chair to view a cavalcade of classic holiday films.

But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced us to alter the traditional methods by which we have long celebrated the holiday despite our eagerness to return to some sense of normalcy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that no one travel for Thanksgiving.

“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” said Dr. Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager for the CDC during a news conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” he said.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. More than 11.5 million people have been diagnosed with the virus and the U.S. has set several new daily records for hospitalizations.

“The reason that we made the update is that the fact that over the week we’ve seen over a million new cases in the country,” said Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, the CDC’s lead for Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force.

“It’s more important than ever to double down on personal safety and public health precautions. Wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain physical distance and avoid crowds, particularly if you are in a high-risk group,” said Dr. Tom Kenyon, former director of the Center for Global Health at the CDC.

Kenyon, who now serves as the chief health officer at Project Hope, a nonprofit global health organization, said it’s crucial to adhere to the CDC’s best practices as cooler weather and flu season kick into full swing.

“As for Thanksgiving and gatherings, we have to keep asking ourselves whether this group dinner or holiday party are worth risking someone’s life?” Kenyon remarked.

The U.S. has recorded nearly 11 million coronavirus cases including more than 100,000 new diagnoses each day since Nov. 4. And health experts have repeatedly warned of more fatalities as the nation and the world await a vaccine.

But creative alternatives for safer ways to enjoy the holiday continue to be discovered.

The University of Maryland Medical Center has developed guides to a risk-free virtual Thanksgiving dinner. Tips include setting up a laptop at the dinner table and digging in while enjoying conversations with the loved ones.

Families can also host video calls before or after dinner to enjoy more intimate conversations – even playing charades or board games like Trivia Pursuit on Zoom or other web conferencing platforms.

“We are having a virtual Thanksgiving as both of my parents advised that my family and I stay home for this holiday,” noted Tiffany Hill, an African-American woman who created a small business, Puzzle and Bloom.

This creative toy company offers puzzles and stickers which feature children of diverse cultures and traditions.

“I was sad at first but we’re going to cook, save on gas and just stay home,” Hill added. “We have planned a Zoom or Facetime call with my parents. So, it won’t be too bad. But, I cannot remember the last time I didn’t go home for the holidays.”

Pamela Washington-Turner, a co-author of Daughters of Promise Devotional, also relayed her disappointment over not being able to go home for the holiday. However, the Turner family has turned the gloomy prospect of missing in-person contact with loved ones into a special night that promises to become a highlight of 2020.

“Initially, [my family] planned to travel to Detroit to spend time with my brother and his family for Thanksgiving,” she said. “His only child is turning one, so they are also going to celebrate her first birthday.”

“Since the COVID numbers have begun to skyrocket out of control, we’ve halted our plans to drive to Detroit and have family Thanksgiving via Zoom. The call will include many descendants of my great grandparents. This will ensure that we are all safe and are not risking our health,” Washington-Turner concluded.

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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