- Thanksgiving events and community gatherings are being canceled or reimagined across the nation during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- Hosts won’t be barred from inviting family or friends to dinner, but travel restrictions may require you to plan ahead — especially if you wish to reduce health risks.
- Sporting events, banquet-style meals, and shopping are all among the riskiest Thanksgiving activities, and any programming around these activities may be canceled this year.
Americans are facing a runaway upward trend in new COVID-19 cases in many states, but most are planning to celebrate Thanksgiving. And while healthcare providers and state officials are hoping most will stay home for a quiet holiday, other data suggests many families will opt to reunite over a turkey dinner in spite of health risks. Travel experts at TripAdvisor revealed that as many as 56% of Americans polled in its 2020 Thanksgiving Travel Index are planning to travel to see family or friends away from their homes, with 75% indicating that they’ll drive to their destination. But only 22% in the same group plan to stay in a separate home or hotel to maintain maximum social distance on their trip.
Upwards of 25 states have regulations in place to discourage this kind of travel, per the New York Times. Some require quarantines for travelers when they arrive until they’re able to be tested, while others may allow you to skip isolation altogether if you’re able to get a test. Risk itself all depends on the state you live in, how you’ll travel, and where you’re heading to — and if both guests and hosts are abiding by guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for safer holiday celebrations.
There are so many ways you can work to reduce the likelihood that COVID-19 will spread at your event; setting up special seating arrangements (outside is even better!), arranging meals in advance, mandating face masks, designating one person to move about the kitchen, opening all windows and throwing on HVACs, and skipping hang-out time in the living room altogether. But reducing the brunt of COVID-19 risk associated with inviting friends and family over for dinner (or for a multiple night stay, if you must) falls on the host. You’ll need to consider the following before you decide to host Thanksgiving this year:
- How many people are you inviting?
- Where are they coming from? How will they arrive at your door?
- Where can you host them, and how long will they be staying?
- Are any of my guests — or individuals in my home — considered high-risk?
- Do I have enough space to ensure social distancing?
If any of the questions above indicate a reality that is considered a high-risk holiday activity as outlined by the CDC, you should seriously reconsider your Thanksgiving plans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked Americans to consider canceling outright while appearing on CBS Evening News in October. “Given the fluid and dynamic nature of what’s going on right now in the spread and uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or underlying condition,” Dr. Fauci said. “You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people you are dealing with are not infected.”
But families aren’t the only ones that have to question how they’ve organized this year. Many beloved events across the nation are being adapted or outright canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and guidance from national health officials.
Which Thanksgiving activities and events are canceled this year?
While states can’t outright ban you from hosting people in your own home, mandates from local officials as well as national regulatory boards can limit the amount of people at public events. Many often associate Thanksgiving with a lavish meal held at home, but there are public events historically held on Thanksgiving that involve large crowds. Since the primary method of COVID-19 transmission is thought to be aerosols and infectious droplets, any event that requires people to gather in poorly ventilated areas are particularly problematic. These kinds of events have been labeled as containing the most risk by the CDC — and thus are likely to be canceled or dramatically reimagined this year.
These events are most likely to be canceled due to COVID-19 risk:
- Community parades and neighborhood celebrations where locals pack into stands or bleachers in close proximity, or line the streets in a packed fashion.
- Races or sporting events where participants gather to compete, and crowds are gathered to cheer participants on.
- Black Friday sale events as they’ve historically been held. Retailers are pivoting to online deals that are live now, and may adapt in-store hours and rules for shopping in person.
- Indoor community Thanksgiving banquets where meals are served buffet style.
- Events held at orchards, farms, or pumpkin patches where people are encouraged to gather, including seasonal festivals.
Not all events that fall into these categories are equally risky — some organizers may implement plans to maintain social distancing and head outside, as well as provide items like face masks or hand sanitizer for those in attendance. Many organizers have canceled their physical gatherings, but have provided digital opportunities where people can connect instead. Events that adhere to in-person gathering and capacity guidelines in each state (officials at AARP have maintained a running list for all 50 states) should be able to proceed, despite the fact that crowds will always carry some level of COVID-19 risk.
Places where Thanksgiving celebrations are being canceled:
What does this all mean for you? If you’re wondering if one of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, first check with the organization or sponsor who normally hosts the event. Then, turn to your local health board to see if there are any instructions on the kinds of celebrations or gatherings that can safely be held this year. You should be carefully planning any gathering at home using guidance outlined in their recommendations as well as tips and tricks from the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Since it’s watched by upwards of 23 million households on any given year, you might be wondering about the fate of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Like many other high-profile events that are tied to holidays, organizers are reimagining the parade in 2020 to eliminate most COVID-19 risk for the hundreds of performers and workers who make the parade a reality. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the parade won’t be canceled outright, but is being held virtually without crowds — and it’s unclear if the parade will follow any of its usual route through Midtown Manhattan. We’ll update this information as more details are revealed over the next two weeks.
Here’s a preview of other events being adapted or outright canceled this year:
- Austin, Texas: Multiple seasonal events are being canceled, including the annual city-wide Turkey Trot held in downtown Austin, which normally draws in tens of thousands of people from across the state. CBS Austin reports that the Trot will go virtual and encourage members to complete the run at their own pace, at a time when social distancing can be maintained.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Statewide guidelines have triggered events like the 2020 Thanksgiving Day Marathon in the city to be canceled. The Cherry Hill Courier-Post reports that all statewide events that include more than 50 people held outside are being disrupted through the end of February 2021.
- Plymouth, Massachusetts: America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration in Plymouth, a sleepy New England destination that’s become associated with the holiday, has been canceled outright. It’s the first time in 25 years of hosting the parade in Massachusetts that the organization won’t host any festivities for those in the state, according to ABC’s WCVB5.
- Chicago, Illinois: New York isn’t the only major city to welcome aerial balloons in the sky on Thanksgiving — but Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade won’t be pivoting to a digital display. “The City of Chicago has canceled all parades, festivals, block parties, and special events for the remainder of 2020,” the parade’s website reads. “We will honor and respect the City of Chicago’s decision.”
- Atlanta, Georgia: The largest road race in the country, the Peachtree Road Race, was originally scheduled for July 4, but is now being held virtually on Thanksgiving instead, Runner’s World reports. There won’t be any expositions or conventions for the runners (which usually draws 60,000 visitors to Atlanta) but participants can log their marathon digitally instead and can expect their bibs in the mail.
Looking for a way to replace a favorite tradition or Thanksgiving event on your annual calendar? We’re sharing some of our favorite ways to honor Turkey Day while keeping totally safe this year — follow along below.
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