In many ways, it is hard to give thanks today. But we must.
Despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic, and the divisiveness of our nation, we must count our blessings and demonstrate our gratitude for each and every one of them.
For certain, this is the most unusual Thanksgiving we have seen in generations. Were it not for advances in technology, medicine and the adaptability of businesses, it would be a much harder day.
Yesterday, President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. delivered a raw, empathetic and optimistic address to Americans, urging them to “hang on” as they faced a long, hard winter and with coronavirus cases spiking across the country.
“Looking back over our history, you see that it’s been in the most difficult circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged,” Biden said. He urged Americans to come together to fight the virus. “I know the country has grown weary of the fight. We need to remember we’re at war with the virus, not with one another, not with each other.”
Later, as he urged Americans to wear face masks and practice social distancing, he noted, “None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based on science, real science.”
Public health officials have pleaded with Americans to stay home this year for Thanksgiving. And, despite busy airports this week, most people plan to follow their advice. Here in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott and his advisers have made the plea to stay home, be safe, and help turn the tide of a surge in positive COVID cases and an uptick in COVID-related deaths.
Health officials are worried about Thanksgiving celebrations as coronavirus cases have reached record highs in many areas of the country. Traditional holiday celebrations, with long meals indoors and with some travel typically involved, could contribute to more cases of the disease, which is primarily spread through droplets and aerosols that can linger in unventilated indoor spaces.
So here we are. A different kind of Thanksgiving. The Macy’s parade is still taking place, minus the crowds. There is still the dog show, some sports and movie marathons on TV.
But it is true this is anything but traditional. The results, if we stick to our convictions, will pay off moving forward.
We have to.
“If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation,” said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, warning that such a surge could result in a “humanitarian crisis.”
The facts are clear: Holidays have proven to be a catalyst of COVID-19 spread across the country. Earlier this year, after each summer holiday, the U.S. reported a significant uptick in infection across the country, and experts say Thanksgiving could have all the components of a potentially deadly event.
Take a look at the trends.
Prior to Memorial Day in May, the national seven-day average of new cases was hovering around 21,000 new cases a day. Five weeks later, that average had doubled, according to an ABC analysis of data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.
A similar pattern occurred just over a month later following the Fourth of July weekend. Less than three weeks after Independence Day, the average number of new cases had risen by almost 40%, with nearly 60,000 patients hospitalized.
And after the summer surge began to decline, it was shortly after Labor Day that new cases began to rise again, bringing the country to its latest surge. As the weather got cooler, public health experts who had long warned against large gatherings began sounding the alarm that even small gatherings — particularly those that are indoors, with poor ventilation — could drive COVID-19 transmission.
Since mid-September, the number of daily coronavirus cases has increased by nearly 400%, and now the virus is significantly more widespread than it ever was during the summer.
The national average of daily new cases is now more than 100,000 higher than it was in July and five times higher than it was during the initial peak in April.
This month, the U.S. has reported nearly more than 3.2 million COVID-19 cases, making it by far the worst month on record for daily cases, with a quarter of the country’s total cases.
On this day of scaled-back celebration, count the greatest blessings of all: family and health.
Let it be that simple, and let’s leave these hard days behind us.