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Public health officials want Americans to skip traditional gatherings for their most fabled holiday: Thanksgiving. As Covid-19 infections spike, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is worried that big turkey dinners where the wine flows and families assemble will be super-spreader events that will overwhelm hospitals across the country. It’s already happened in Canada, which saw a spike in Covid-19 infections after its own Thanksgiving holiday in October.
Thanksgiving in America is as big as Christmas elsewhere in the West. Like Chinese who return home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, many Americans make their only trek of the year to see family in late November. While it has colonial Christian roots, Thanksgiving has long been a party that unites diverse cultures and religions. It might be the only thing pro-and anti-Trump voters have in common this year — though a Thanksgiving blackout might avoid some awkward dinner table conversations.
The CDC appeal may already be too late. Airlines are expecting their busiest time since the travel industry fell off the map in March and have laid on hundreds of extra flights. The American Automobile Association says 55 million people are planning to take trips of 50 miles or more in the coming days. It expects the second biggest Thanksgiving exodus since it started tracking such statistics in 2000 — a nightmare scenario since it is likely to spread the virus from hot spots to new areas.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and former Baltimore Health Commissioner, says it might be best to wait until next summer — after a vaccine is available — to share turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving in July? It’ll be heresy to most Americans — but could make the title of another great road movie.