Harrisites stress safety during this COVID-19 Thanksgiving

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In the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases have been rapidly increasing, raising questions on the safety of travel and family gatherings as Thanksgiving approaches. While this holiday provides  the opportunity to visit friends and family during the break, many agree that  caution toward the potential risks that the upcoming holiday poses takes precedence. 

With a record two million cases in just two weeks across the country, and experts grimly projecting death counts to exceed that of the spring peak, families across the U.S. face a dilemma of how to celebrate the holiday of gathering while adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Freshman Antonia Lestari commented, “I usually go to New Jersey to celebrate the holiday with my family and loved ones—nothing too far.” However, this year she stated, “I wouldn’t want to put my family in danger, considering the fact that most of my family are old…[this] is for their safety and mine.”

Many students expressed a similar sentiment. Senior Hali Huang said, “Although it’s understandable that you may want to see your family and friends during the holidays, for the sake of your wellbeing as well as others, you should try to stay home and find other methods of celebrating the holidays ‘together,’ whether that be by Zoom or FaceTime or Discord.” 

“You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving,” remarked Dr. Anthony Fauci in a New York Times article, “But this may not be the time to have a big family gathering.” However, that  doesn’t necessarily mean foregoing Thanksgiving altogether.  “It’s not going to be one size fits all. You’ve got to be careful. It depends on the vulnerability of the people you’re with and your need to protect them,” he explained. 

While small gatherings may seem like a viable pandemic alternative, especially if incurred by covid-fatigue, experts now say that household transmission accounts for 70% of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid) spread “when widespread community control measures are in place.” This may be due to the lack of poor ventilation in homes, leading to the accumulation of aerosols.

The CDC recommends to have a small dinner with household members only, preferably in an outdoor setting, sharing recipes with friends and family, shipping food to family members to avoid direct contact, and hosting a virtual dinner as low risk activities. For more CDC Thanksgiving guidelines and tips, visit the link here

For those resorting to international travel for the holidays, airplanes have been observed by several studies to be an efficient and safe means. According to a CNN article, “The US Department of Defense study supports earlier research showing the ventilation systems on aircraft filter the air efficiently and take out particles that could transmit viruses.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” but also warns that the lack of social distancing on crowded flights requiring passengers to sit within six feet of others for long periods “may increase your risk of getting COVID-19.”

Junior Brian Lin commented that while the airplane ventilation may be effective, the process for onboarding a flight itself includes various forms of contact. “Please take precaution when travelling internationally if you do… forms of minimal contact occur while using the bathroom or getting your luggage or waiting on a line when you travel,” he said. He added that if it is completely essential, it is important to check websites containing relevant information of foreing quarantine policies and urgent health information such as the Travel Advisory page in the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs website. “I would research as much as possible about the conditions of the country to be as safe as possible.” 

“Although Thanksgiving may be a little different for everyone this year, no matter how you celebrate in consideration of the present conditions, I hope everyone remembers to be safe and has a happy Thanksgiving!” Hali concluded. 

Art by Amy Jiang