WASHINGTON – About 1,000 Americans still die every day from Covid-19. The United States has reported a 28 percent increase in the average seven-day number of new Covid cases in the past two weeks, to 95,000 per day.
These numbers do not exist in isolation. Rising Covid cases – and more hospitalizations among vaccinated, immunocompromised Americans. believed A few months after vaccinations will pass when the US heads for Thanksgiving. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Unanimously approved Pfizer and Moderna boosters for all American adults, but only on November 19, the Friday before the holiday. Families across the United States will travel to get together to share meals with each other, and they will most likely do so indoors.
Last Thanksgiving, before vaccines became available, many Americans did travel to be together, but the pandemic was still the main story in the country. This year, the US is immediately still gripped by the pandemic, but it is also returning to normal. A pandemic is not necessarily a headline that makes it visible in the morning paper. Bars and restaurants are open again. In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she would withdraw from her city mandate to use masks effective November 22.
“A lot of people feel dead with Covid, and while we may feel exhausted with Covid… Covid is not over with us,” said Ann Liu, an allergy, immunology and infectious disease specialist at Stanford University.
While many people may feel safer or more secure because they have been vaccinated, vaccination alone is not a guarantee. Liu also advised keeping rapid tests handy and using masks “wisely” and staying outside whenever possible. (Rapid tests are especially important, Liu said, as other respiratory viruses with symptoms similar to Covid will also spread as Americans gather.)
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 only at the end of October. The vaccine is given in two doses three weeks apart, and maximum immunity is established two weeks after the second dose – which means that the vast majority of children in the United States will not be fully protected by the vaccine (or rather, completely, since the vaccine may protect them) for Thanksgiving.
What’s more, immunocompromised people remain at high risk despite being vaccinated and may have family members who want and expect to be on Thanksgiving even if not everyone in the group has been vaccinated. In this case, as Liu suggested, “people talk to the people they come together to talk openly about how they feel,” rather than “making assumptions about the threshold for risk taking by others.”
I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving last year. My family has not gathered, although all my parents, brothers and sisters live in New York. We all stayed in our homes.
In the morning I went through a virtual yoga class. My husband and I ordered pre-cooked food in advance from a nearby restaurant and ate it in the late afternoon. After that, we had a FaceTime video call with my family and then we watched the original. Miracle on 34th Street… It was a good day. But it was also a sacrifice, albeit a small one, that we made to try to keep our families safe and move towards the end of the pandemic. I missed family relationships, but I knew how angry I would be if I passed Covid to one of them.
We’ll be together for Thanksgiving this year. We will do what Liu said. We continue to wear masks in grocery stores, pharmacies and on public transport to keep ourselves safe. We will check before and after. Everyone who will be there is fully vaccinated. However, I know I may be contributing to the rise in post-Thanksgiving Covid cases.
It makes me feel guilty. It makes me angry. Mostly, however, I get sad. Thousands of Americans die a day, and it has become so normal that this is no longer the main story of the day. I wonder if we bring it up at all as we sit together at the Thanksgiving table, grateful and nervous that we’re all together.
[See also: How a fourth Covid wave is crashing over Europe]