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Planning for COVID and the Holidays

Alternatives for large family gatherings during the pandemic
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 11:18 PM EDT
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(WJRT) - Think back to last year. The smell of good food at the Thanksgiving table. The laughs shared as you opened Christmas presents, all curtailed by COVID, now. Despite plans being changed, some people, believe or not, are finding themselves even more thankful, this year.

“We’ve got people in the kitchen, in the sitting area, we’ve got people in the living room, in the hallways. I mean, there’s tables set up everywhere,” says Amanda Norrow, describing Thanksgiving of years past.

It is not your average family Thanksgiving. Think big.

“It takes up the whole kitchen when everybody’s got all their dishes spread out,” she says. “Up to 70 people at one time.”

That is a whole lot of turkey.

“We’ve had, I think up to seven turkeys at one time, one year,” says Norrow.

Amanda Norrow is used to a crowd.

“I have a huge family. My mom comes from nine siblings. So, all those siblings have kids as well.”

Norrow moved back to Flushing last year, after more than a decade away. But it is the yearly gathering of Thanksgiving she looks forward to the most. This year. It is canceled, thanks to COVID-19.

“2020 has brought some heartache, quite a bit,” says Norrow.

It is simply not worth the ‘what-ifs?’

“We have people in our family that are elderly. We have people in our family that have or had cancer, other health conditions. And you can’t take that risk,” says Norrow.

Norrow works as an occupational therapist at a skilled nursing facility for the elderly. She has stared this pandemic in the face, right from the beginning.

“We get temperature checked before we walk in the building. We’ve got a lot of precautions we take. We wear masks all day. we get covid tested every week,” says Norrow.

She is not surprised it has come to this, missing out on a yearly tradition.

“It’s sad and it’s different that you have to think about, twice, about hugging somebody. Or think twice about being close to somebody that you’ve be close to for...I mean, I’m 35 years old, so I’ve never had to think twice about giving my aunts or uncles or my cousins a hug,” she says.

The CDC has already issued a long list of the dangers of getting together for the holiday season:

- “Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.”

- “Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.”

- “Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.”

- “Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people.”

The list of guidance goes on and on and on.

“It’s starting to wear on you a little bit. Because humans are meant for that social contact. And it’s hard, because as it’s getting colder outside, too, nobody’s going to want to get together outdoors,” says Norrow.

So, what are your alternatives this year to large family celebrations?

“We have talked about everybody meeting on a Zoom call just so that we can see each other,” says Norrow.

Besides hosting a digital gettogether, experts say consider gatherings of just immediate family in your household.

Don’t feel like cooking? Think about supporting a small business that may be open or arrange for food to be picked up a day in advance. You can even order a Thanksgiving meal online.

Know loved ones or friends who are older, and might be alone? Look into churches or civic organizations that can deliver them a holiday meal.

Despite the turmoil and changes, for Amanda, the pandemic has brought perspective.

“Despite not being able to be with everybody, I think I am more thankful that I do have the health of my family, and the health of my friends around me, and, you know, taking into perspective that those things are what count the most,” says Norrow.

But as for what as on the table this year?

“I don’t cook a Thanksgiving meal. So we’ll probably end up having tacos or something!” she says with a laugh.

At this point, her family’s Christmas plans will most likely be canceled as well.

For a lot people, the holidays mean gathering with close friends, too. Health leaders say the safest way to do that, is to consider quarantining for 14 days before gathering with people outside your household.

For more guidance from the CDC, click here.

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