Jasek: COVID-19 is Not Invited to Thanksgiving Dinner

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The table was set for seven. Although it typically held 15 place settings, only four of us were eating Thanksgiving dinner last year together. The food was still delicious and filling, but the holiday was not nearly as cheerful as it had been in past years.  

Thanksgivings were typically celebrated at my aunt’s house with all of my relatives and cousins. My mother was always in the kitchen helping out while my father found an IPA beer and joined my uncle on the couch to watch football. 

The turkey, which was always placed in the middle of the table, was surrounded by so many side dishes: mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, brussel sprouts with bacon, glazed carrots, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. Oh, and how could I forget about the dinner rolls. 

I only experience food comas after eating Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Patty’s. 

My mom and her sisters agreed to celebrate Thanksgiving separately last year due to the pandemic. The table for 15 quickly turned into a table for seven. But even then, only four people from my immediate family celebrated together since three of them were exposed to COVID-19 the day before Thanksgiving. 

My mom packed leftovers in plastic containers and gave them to me to drive over to my sister’s apartment so they too could eat a freshly made, Thanksgiving dinner. As she prepared the dishes, I recall her saying “this is not how the holidays should be spent.”

It was quite miserable spending the holiday apart from family. The worst part was that there was nothing we could possibly do about it as other families, nationwide, suffered the same fate for the holidays.

Sitting at the dinner table, we barely spoke as we ate our turkey. I vividly remember all our forks hitting the glass plates and wanting to flinch every time because the sound was dreadful. 

There were no aunts to ask me about my love life, no encouraging the youngest to finish dinner and no games to be played– which always had us hysterically laughing.    

Although, I’m hopeful for this Thanksgiving. Vaccinations have been distributed nationwide and, more recently, the CDC approved a pediatric version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 11 years old. Vaccinations are key to having a safe and healthy Thanksgiving this year.

Dr. Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, stressed the importance of receiving a booster shot, if eligible, in an article for Today

There is still time before the holiday to receive your booster. Check the CDC guidelines to see if you or a family member are eligible.

If your family is hosting Thanksgiving this year, talk about vaccination status among family members. Depending on your family’s comfort level, you could discuss and communicate a safety approach to this holiday and others coming up.

Dr. Keri Althoff also mentioned that it is wise for families to get tested before gathering. I’ll personally be taking advantage of Rowan’s asymptotic COVID-19 testing at the Owl’s Nest in the Student Center before I go home.  

Traveling guidelines are not as strict this year, allowing families to see members they most likely did not get to see last year. Most airlines, such as United, Southwest and Delta, still require masks while flying. 

I used to dislike Thanksgiving with how chaotic my Italian family is but I see now that I took that for granted. There is so much to be thankful for, including the vaccine, which is allowing for a somewhat normal Thanksgiving this year.

I’m really hoping my sister and her fiancé make it so I don’t have to deliver their meal to their doorstep this year. We also have a new family member joining us this Thanksgiving, and it’s Nyla — my other sister’s new puppy. I’m sure she’ll love the accidental crumbs on the floor. 

I am blessed to be with my whole family this holiday and I cannot wait to eat some mashed potatoes.

Stay safe, Profs and Happy Thanksgiving.   

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