By India Jones
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Many Americans are grappling with ways to make one of the nation’s most celebrated holidays safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Richmond resident Caroline Kaschak will feast at home to protect at-risk elders in her family.
“It is just going to be my husband and I,” Kaschak said. “We are going to order in fancy takeout instead.”
Colleges like Virginia Commonwealth University are offering COVID-19 exit testing to students before they return home for the holidays. Some Americans still have scheduled traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with their families.
“I plan on going to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving,” said VCU student Rickaya Sykes. “They live in the same town as me, and we are very close. If I am not at home, I am at their house spending time with them.”
The Centers for Disease Control recently issued guidance for gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with people who live in the same household, the CDC said. Gatherings with family and friends who live outside of the home can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
The agency recommends that hosts limit the number of guests, disinfect surfaces and keep windows open to decrease coronavirus risk. For attendees, guidance includes bringing and eating food from home with their own utensils and staying out of the kitchen.
COVID-19 cases and deaths have sharply risen in the past two weeks across the nation and in Virginia, according to the New York Times. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,262 new cases per day in Virginia, an increase of 62% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced a coronavirus mandate in Virginia to limit private gatherings and some public events to 25 people. The restrictions took effect Nov. 15, less than two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The CDC urged Americans to consider alternative Thanksgiving Day activities such as virtual celebrations, eating meals outdoors, post-holiday shopping online and using curbside pickup.
Virginia State Parks is encouraging families to gather at its 39 parks— which have remained open during the pandemic—over the Thanksgiving holiday. The “Opt Outside” promotion will be celebrated throughout the holiday weekend from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29. Visitors have a chance to win a $500 Virginia State Parks gift certificate if they submit up to five photos of their trip and enter it into the annual photo contest. The Virginia State Parks promotion started 10 years ago as “Green Friday” to motivate families to visit the park instead of post-Thanksgiving shopping on “Black Friday.”
“Since the promotion started, we have seen more people visiting parks over the holidays,” said Tim Shrader, the eastern region field operations manager for Virginia State Parks. “You have all this family coming in, you probably need to get outside and enjoy each other’s company outside for physical and mental health.”
AAA released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, which anticipated at least a 10% drop in travel. The agency said that is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. In mid-October, AAA expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for the holiday. Now they say it could be lower given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and health notices.
The nation’s airports saw an uptick in travelers over the weekend, despite the CDC advisory to avoid traveling. The Transportation Security Administration reported almost 4 million travelers from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22, but the rate of travelers was still much lower than at the same time last year.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
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