Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and say the word Thanksgiving to yourself. What images, smells, and memories come to mind? The first thing I think of is entering my sister’s home on Thanksgiving Day and hearing the sound of laughter emanating from the living room. I feel the warmth of her home and smell the aroma of all of the wonderful Thanksgiving dishes. I see small kids running around and hear the the football game on the television. Most of all I feel the love of my family. What made the event so joyous was that we celebrated my father’s birthday at the same time. His birthday was on November 27th which was often during the week of Thanksgiving. The day did not end until we sang happy birthday to my father. It was a wonderful sight to see my dad blow out the candles on his cake surrounded by all of his grandchildren (usually it was the grandkids who blew out the candles).
I’m sure your images of Thanksgiving and what it means to you are similar to mine. That is why Thanksgiving holds such a special place in the hearts of all Americans. The thought of not being able to be with family and loved ones can be painful and heartbreaking; especially if it the only time all year that you are able to see everyone you hold dear in one place. Gathering with loved ones is why Thanksgiving has traditionally been the busiest time to travel. Covid-19 has severely upended this tradition and has forced all of us to think seriously about how we will plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
Choosing to travel during these unprecedented times is a personal decision and we all have to weigh the benefits of being with our loved ones versus the risks of contracting the virus while travelling. Given the surge in the spread of cases and the number of deaths that Covid-19 has caused, we should take all necessary precautions and be prudent about travelling. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States, more than 11.5 million people have been diagnosed with the virus, and The United States has set several new daily records for hospitalizations. Dr. Henry Walke, on a call with NBC news on November 19th advised that people not travel on Thanksgiving and to stay home this year to help stop the spread of Covid-19. He stated on the call, "It's not a requirement. It's a recommendation for the American public to consider. Right now, especially as we're seeing this sort of exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, it leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time."
Should You Travel for Thanksgiving?
While we are all encouraged to stay home for Thanksgiving, the CDC recommends that you ask yourselves the following questions before you decide to travel:
- Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
- Are cases high or increasing in your community or your destination? Check CDC’s COVID Data Tracker for the latest number of cases.
- Are hospitals in your community or your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19? To find out, check state and local public health department websites.
- Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers? Check state and local requirements before you travel.
- During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with?
- Do your plans include traveling by bus, train, or air which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?
- Are you traveling with people who don’t live with you?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the CDC recommends that you should consider altering your plans. You might want to consider having a Thanksgiving celebration with your household members only and invite other family and loved ones to join you virtually.
Things to Consider if You Decide to Travel for Thanksgiving
If your circumstances dictate that you should travel and / or made the decision that the risks are minimal to you and your family, you should take the following steps before you do travel:
- If you are traveling by air, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before getting on a plane and plan to get tested with a viral test 2–5 days after your flight. Testing 1-3 days before and 2–5 days after travel may reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
- Check travel restrictions before you go.
- Get your flu shot before you travel.
- Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people who you don’t live with.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
- Know when to delay your travel.
How To Tell Your Family You are not coming home for Thanksgiving
If you decide that the best course of action will be to stay home, your loved ones might understand and welcome your decision. However, they might be disappointed or even angry that you have decided not to see them. If this happens, taking the following steps might ease their pain:
- Accept Responsibility. Let your loved ones know that you are sorry that you cannot make it but you just do not anyone in the family to get sick and you are willing to take responsibility for that.
- Acknowledge your loved one’s feelings. Let them know you understand how they feel and if that you would feel the same way if you were in their shoes.
- Explain the facts. Use the facts regarding the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths as the reason why you chose not to travel. Reiterate to your loved ones that you do not anyone in your family to be part of these painful statics.
- Provide Alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Offer to do a virtual gathering with your loved ones where you cook and / or eat your Thanksgving dinner together via Zoom or Facetime. You can also offer to see your loved ones as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so.
This Thanksgiving will be one of the most difficult holidays in my recent memory not only because there will be no large family Thanksgiving gathering this year but because of the immense pain and suffering that Covid-19 has caused for the United States and the world (not to mention the atrociously inadequate national strategy which has made the pandemic even worse - but that topic is for another blog post). To be safe, my family has decided to have a small gathering instead. While this year is unlike any other, my family still has plenty to be thankful for. I hope yours does as well.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Attune Financial Planning. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information only.