Families struggle over how to organize second Thanksgiving pandemic as Michigan COVID-19 cases rise


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

But the virus had a different plan. Michigan is now the country’s hotspot. Hospitals there are overflowing with patients and schools reduce in-person learning. A resurgent virus has pushed new infections in the United States to 95,000 a day, hospitals in Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are also under pressure, and health officials are begging unvaccinated people not to travel.

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Criel’s big family celebration has been put on hold. She roasts a turkey and makes a pistachio salad – an annual tradition – but only for herself, her husband and her two grown boys.

“I’m going to wear my stretchy pants and eat too much – and no one will care,” she said.

Its story reflects the Thanksgiving dilemma families across America face as gatherings are weighed down by the same political and coronavirus debates consuming other arenas.

As they gather to eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie, they are faced with a list of questions: Can they have big meetings again? Can they come together? Should they invite unvaccinated family members? Should they demand a negative test before a guest is allowed to dinner or a place on a couch for an afternoon of football?

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“I know it might be too much for us not to share Thanksgiving here with my cousins, but better safe than sorry, right?” said Criel, a 58-year-old data administrator for a financial firm.

Jocelyn Ragusin, an accountant from Littleton, Colorado, takes a different approach by prioritizing family time over COVID-19 concerns even as increasing cases and overwhelmed hospitals have triggered new warrants of masks in the Denver area this week. Ragusin, whose husband contracted the virus and spent four days in the intensive care unit in October 2020, said she was ready to accept some level of risk to regain a sense of community.

She said about seven or eight family members would get together for the holidays and the group had not discussed the immunization status of others beforehand, in part because they “somehow knew” already who. received the vaccines and who has already had the virus.

“Getting together is worth it. And get together, share meals and share life, ”Ragusin said as he picked up his mother from the Denver airport. “We are just not made to live in isolation. “

The desire to reunite family and friends for Thanksgiving was evident on Wednesday in San Francisco, where the line at a grocery store stretched out the door and around the corner.

Mari Arreola was in line to purchase ingredients to make tamales for a meal that will also include salsa, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy. She sees the gathering of 12 family members this year as a symbol of hope that things will get better. A year ago, she spent Thanksgiving only with her husband, mother and daughter.

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“We felt really disconnected, and we were all living our lives based on fear, and it felt like an apocalypse scene outside every time you left your house,” the San Francisco technical consultant told the last year. “It was really scary, but now things are different.”

Even at the best of times, Thanksgiving has always been a nerve-racking occasion for Georgetown University political science professor Nadia Brown who hates awkward and confrontational conversations about politics, race, and other burning issues. COVID-19 has only made the holidays worse.

She and her husband were hoping to host a big Thanksgiving family reunion at their home near Silver Spring, Md., But the onset of a winter wave and lingering concerns about breakthrough cases thwarted those plans. She recently told her father and family – even if they are vaccinated – that they must be tested to prove they are free from the virus or sit outside at Thanksgiving dinner.

With two of Brown’s three daughters, 2 and 4, unable to get vaccinated, she doesn’t want to take any risks – “because we don’t know the long-term impacts of COVID on children,” she said. Explain.

His decision means his father, Dr. Joseph Brown, will not be coming from his home about a three-hour drive to New Brunswick, New Jersey. The dentist is vaccinated, but says he hasn’t had time to get tested.

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“It hurts me a lot. I want to see my grandchildren, ”said Joseph Brown, adding,“ I understand his situation. I really do. “

Riva Letchinger, who saw first-hand the ravages of the pandemic as a medical student, put aside her worries to travel from her New York home to Washington to resume Thanksgiving festivities with her family. They skipped the rally last year.

She said she was reassured that everyone had been vaccinated and received boosters, but also worried about her own viral status, even though she was fully vaccinated.

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

Despite his worries, Letchinger looks forward to the annual family ritual, which includes a generous complement of Jewish favorites – like the golumpkis, or stuffed cabbage, that his late aunt Susie used to bring to the Thanksgiving holiday.

But the celebration will also have dark undertones. The family has lost two loved ones, both Holocaust survivors, after fighting with COVID-19 last year.

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