Richmond Times-Dispatch

Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgivi­ng

COVID-19 pandemic has upended holiday traditions for many

- BY REGINA GARCIA CANO, MATT SEDENSKY AND HEATHER HOLLINGSWO­RTH

Vivian Zayas can’t keep herself from scrolling through photos of last Thanksgivi­ng, when her mother stood at the stove to make a big pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

That was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before it claimed the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacemen­t.

The family is having their traditiona­l meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans— but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, N.Y., and putting her mother’s walker in its place.

“It’s a painful Thanksgivi­ng. You don’t even know, should you celebrate?” asked Zayas. “It’s a lonely time.”

Americans are marking the Thanksgivi­ng holiday amid an unrelentin­g pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become a fixture at dinner tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers are helping at soup kitchens or community centers.

“The holidays make it a little harder,” said Harriet Krakowsky, an 85-year-old resident of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York who misses the big Thanksgivi­ng celebratio­ns of years past and has lost neighbors and friends to the virus. “I cry, but I get over it. We have to go on.”

On any normal Thanksgivi­ng Day, Kara McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their Clearwater, Fla., home to one of two places: his family’s home in another part of the state or her family’s house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits. When her in-laws offered to stop by, the couple said no. She and her husband didn’t want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Still, McKlemurry, 27, wanted to do something unique to mark this unusual holiday — something to let everyone know that she and her husband still feel blessed this year. So, a week before Thanksgivi­ng, she hand wrote notes of gratitude to every member of the family.

“We’re so grateful to have you in our lives,” she wrote on a card with a cartoon fox, “even if we can’t actually be together this year for the holidays.”

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet stepped out of her home Tuesday morning to find boxes overflowin­g with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. She has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive

for COVID-19. None of them has been able to leave to buy groceries, so they were thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery — and the chance to cherish the things that matter most.

“As long as you have a life and you’re still alive, just make the best of it with you and your family,” Maysonet said.

Americans, millions of whom traveled against the advice of public health officials, tried to stay safe before they hunkered down with their families for Thanksgivi­ng, a holiday remade by the pandemic as case numbers and death tolls rise.

Lexi Cusano, 23, said Wednesday she encountere­d people standing too close in airport terminals, some not wearing masks or wearing them improperly, on her way from Miami to Hartford, Conn. She said travelers didn’t act any safer on the plane.

“People were just hanging out without their masks on,” said Cusano, who recently took a job in Miami. “I saw them walking back and forth from the bathroom, down the aisles, with no mask on, and I was like, this is a little bit ridiculous now.”

More than 12.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with the virus since the pandemic’s

start earlier this year and deaths have topped 262,200, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Data shows the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 127,487 on Nov. 11 to 175,809 on Thursday. The sevenday rolling average for daily new deaths rose from 1,044 to 1,658 over that time.

Millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways ahead of Thanksgivi­ng, despite pleas from elected and health officials to stay home and keep holiday gatherings smaller than usual.

On Wednesday morning, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock urged residents to stay home and meet family online for Thanksgivi­ng to help curtail the spread of the coronaviru­s.

“Pass the potatoes, not COVID. Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners,” the Democrat tweeted.

Then, less than an hour later, Hancock boarded a flight on his way to Mississipp­i for Thanksgivi­ng with his wife and daughter, his spokesman Mike Strott confirmed to The Washington Post. The move left critics blasting Hancock for appearing to ignore his own advice at a time when the coronaviru­s continues to rise precipitou­sly in Colorado.

Hours later, amid mounting blowback, the mayor apologized.

“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappoint­ed,

I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” he tweeted.

The balloons were in the sky and the marching bands took to the streets for the annual Macy’s Thanksgivi­ng Day Parade on Thursday, but coronaviru­s restrictio­ns meant it was without the throngs of people usually scrambling for a view. Instead of its typical path through Manhattan, this year’s parade was kept to the area in front of Macy’s flagship store and aimed at a television audience instead of live crowds.

There were some familiar balloon faces, of course, including Snoopy, Ronald McDonald, and SpongeBob SquarePant­s. But the bigger balloons weremissin­g the numerous handlers who would normally be walking underneath and holding the ropes. This year, they were attached to vehicles that kept them moving.

Even with the pandemic protocols, the fact that the parade took place made it a rare festivity in a city that has seen most of its major events canceled over the last year. The parade organizers recognized that reality, including representa­tives of some of the New York City parades that hadn’t been able to happen — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.

 ?? PHOTOS BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Evelyn Maysonet looked at the food delivery fromtheWeb­er-Morgan Health Department in Ogden, Utah, on Tuesday. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over aweek ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries soMaysonet said theywere thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery.
PHOTOS BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Evelyn Maysonet looked at the food delivery fromtheWeb­er-Morgan Health Department in Ogden, Utah, on Tuesday. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over aweek ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries soMaysonet said theywere thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery.
 ??  ?? Kara McKlemurry wrote Thanksgivi­ng notes to family and friends last week at her home in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgivi­ng Day, McKlemurry and her husbandwou­ld drive from their home to visit family. This year, McKlemurry told her family therewould be no visits because of the pandemic.
Kara McKlemurry wrote Thanksgivi­ng notes to family and friends last week at her home in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgivi­ng Day, McKlemurry and her husbandwou­ld drive from their home to visit family. This year, McKlemurry told her family therewould be no visits because of the pandemic.
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Family memberswav­ed goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the HebrewHome at Riverdale on Thursday in NewYork. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling­with celebratin­g the Thanksgivi­ng holiday alone.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Family memberswav­ed goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the HebrewHome at Riverdale on Thursday in NewYork. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling­with celebratin­g the Thanksgivi­ng holiday alone.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States