Thanksgiving can trigger or interrupt the response of the U.S. coronavirus

In Pennsylvania, if you have friends for socializing, you have to wear a mask – and so do your friends. That’s the rule, but Barb Chestnu doesn’t intend to follow.

“No one is going to tell me what I can or can’t do in my own home,” Chestnut, 60, of Shippensburg, said. “They won’t pay my bills and they won’t tell me what to do.”

As governors and mayors struggle with an out-of-control epidemic, they rape mask mandates and impose restrictions on small indoor gatherings accused of accelerating the spread of the coronavirus. But while these measures carry the weight of the law, they cannot be implemented in practice, and officials instead seek voluntary compliance.

Good luck with that.

While many will no doubt listen to public health advice – reduce Thanksgiving plans, avoid gatherings, wear masks if they are near people who don’t live with them, it’s inevitable that a section of the population will blow up new state and local restrictions and socialize anyway. Experts say this could put a greater strain on overcrowded hospitals and lead to even higher rates of illness and death during the holidays.

“When it started in early March, we didn’t stare at Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, and we didn’t have a reservoir for the disease. And for me, that’s the biggest concern in the coming weeks. , ”Said Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. He called the risk of a Thanksgiving spike “extremely high”.

“I think you see a lot of resistance here,” Rubin said. “I can’t speculate on what people are going to do, but I can say that to the extent that there is no collective buy-in here, it somewhat dampens the impact of the measures themselves.”

The nation reports an average of 172,000 new viral illnesses a day, nearly doubling since the end of October, Johns Hopkins University writes. The rates of hospitalizations, deaths, and test positivity also rise sharply as the nation approaches Thanksgiving.

In response, elected officials are introducing restrictions that, with a few exceptions, fall short of the widespread stay-at-home and business shutdowns experienced in the spring.

Utah and Vermont banned all social gatherings. So are the local governments of Philadelphia and Dane County, Wisconsin. In Kentucky, up to eight people from two households can gather; In Oregon, the assembly line is six. California has imposed a night curfew. Several states require masks, including those with GOP governors who have long resisted them. The country’s top health officials are speaking to Americans to avoid the Thanksgiving journey.

There is some evidence that the holiday will be quieter.

Tamika Hickson, who owns a party rental business in Philadelphia, said Thanksgiving was already a bust even before her city moved to ban indoor gatherings of any size.

“No one’s calling,” Hickson said. “A lot of people have lost a lot of loved ones, so they don’t play with it.” And I don’t blame them.

According to AAA projects, Thanksgiving trips will be reduced by at least 10%, which would be the steepest one-year fall since the Great Recession of 2008. However, this still means tens of millions of people on the road. In social media, people defiantly talk about Thanksgiving plans, arguing that nothing prevents them from seeing friends and family.

More than a million people crowded at U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest since the pandemic began, according to the Department of Transportation.

Dr. Debra Bogen, director of health at Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said too many people disregarded public health guidelines and the result was an uncontrolled spread of the virus.

“In recent weeks, I’ve been asking people to follow the rules, narrow down gatherings and parties, stay home except for the basics, and wear a mask. I finished the question, ”Bogen said at a news conference, his frustration felt. He advertised home counseling, which he says becomes an order if people don’t comply.

Some people underestimate the risk to themselves, their friends and family, said Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who wrote about COVID-19 risk analysis and communication. Others doubt what health officials are telling them about the virus. And others are simply irresponsible.

According to Fischhoff, the lack of a cohesive national epidemiological strategy; patchwork and seemingly arbitrary restrictions at the state and local levels; ineffective, politicized, and controversial public health messaging has caused confusion and mistrust.

“Leadership has been a huge, tragic failure from the start that we have not found a common ground in which we work to protect the weakest. And after he lost that coordination, he gets mixed up to get it back, and that’s the tragic mess we’re in now, ”he said.

In York County, Pennsylvania, 51-year-old Kori Jess, a retail worker, tested positive for the virus last week. A long-masked skeptic’s personal experience with COVID-19 has changed his mind – one point. He said it was appropriate to wear a mask when circumstances warranted, but he still did not like the idea of ​​being entrusted by the government.

“I’m so torn,” Jess said. “I like people fighting for their freedoms, but I understand why people wear masks.”

In New York State, some sheriffs say they do not intend to enforce the recent mandate of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, which bans private rallies of more than 10 people.

“There is no need to hide and sneak in cars when gathering with your family. We’re not going to deplete our limited resources to get search permits and count the turkey eaters in his house, ”Madd County Sheriff Todd Hood said in a Facebook post. He encouraged people in the largely rural area to use common sense to keep them safe.

Kim Collins is one of those planning a lean Thanksgiving. In a typical year, Collins had up to 20 people at his home in South Orange, New Jersey. This year, his extended family will remain in place. “My husband finds it hard to bear that his mother, who is alone, will not be here,” she said.

But Collins was not optimistic that others would be so careful. He says a lot of people go through “mental gymnastics” to justify their festive gatherings. “I think a lot of people aren’t great in the honor system,” he said. ___

Journalists Deepti Hajela in New York and Michael Hill in Albany, New York contributed to this story.