Thanksgiving is Cancelled, According to Governor Cuomo
Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, even at private residences
According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the amount of people at indoor gatherings should be scaled down to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Translation: if you’re planning to have a massive gathering of family and friends for Thanksgiving, think again.
Effective Friday at 10:00 PM Eastern time, bars, gyms, and any establishment that has a liquor license will be required to close between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM. Restaurants will also be required to close during these hours, but they will be permitted to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages to-go.
The Governor also announced a restriction on the number of people allowed to attend indoor or outdoor gatherings at private residences, similar to the restrictions imposed by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These restrictions are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, and they also go into effect at 10:00 PM on Friday.
The United States as a whole is seeing record-breaking cases, with around 140,000 new positive tests each day. New York, which had gone several months with no drastic increases in cases or fatalities, is experiencing a surge that brings us back to the numbers we were seeing in April.
The intention behind these new restrictions are clear: Cuomo is explicitly discouraging New Yorkers from having large gatherings for Thanksgiving.
Despite the fact that restrictions are rooted in evidence (after all, contact tracing tells us that large gatherings have continually been troublesome sources of transmission), not everyone is willing to comply.
Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli announced his intention to defy the Governor’s restrictions, tweeting, “I’ll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving. My address is public record. Some family will come from (gasp!) New Jersey.” Borelli’s statement comes as New York sees an alarming rise in Coronavirus cases, just weeks before Pfizer and Moderna intend to submit their vaccines for emergency use authorization under the FDA.
“Kids will see their grandparents, cousins will play in the yard, sis in law will bring strawberry rhubarb pie, & a turkey will be overcooked,” Borelli continued.
Borelli isn’t the only one in denial about the importance of keeping gatherings safe this fall, and while Pfizer’s announcement that their vaccine is over 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 is encouraging, FDA approval may not come soon enough to prevent a full-blown second wave.
Refusal to comply with government mandates is nothing new, but burning masks in protest is really something else. Anti-safety protests in New York have been branded as anti-loss-of-freedom protests, while hundreds of thousands across the nation lose their freedom to live.
COVID fatigue, mental health, and human life
A lot has been said about social isolation and the resulting mental health effects (which are real and quantifiable). The term “COVID fatigue” encompasses what most Americans are feeling: enough is enough.
The new restrictions in New York, however, don’t mandate isolation, nor do they force families to cancel Thanksgiving gatherings. Instead, they encourage everyone to do their part in stopping the spread. Perhaps this year, it would be best to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to close family members, or to people in your COVID bubble.
With two weeks to prepare for Thanksgiving, would it really hurt us to step up the precautions so that when we take off our masks at the dinner table, we feel confident that we aren’t putting anyone at risk?
It’s obvious that the restriction on gatherings at private residences won’t be enforced by local governments. The NYPD is not going to go door to door giving tickets to families of 11. New Yorkers themselves are the ones who need to enforce these restrictions.
Social isolation is awful for mental health. This remains undisputed, as 1 in 5 Americans have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder over the last few months.
There is also a quantifiable surge in COVID-19 cases across New York and across the nation. This, too, is indisputable. The data is clear.
While families may be craving the intimacy that a Thanksgiving dinner provides, maybe this isn’t a good year to have a 20-person gathering. After all, it’s not like turkey and mashed potatoes can only be consumed during the third week of November. If we collectively fail to keep our families safe by taking this virus seriously, we could end up with a few less people at next year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Here’s what you should be doing
It’s not too late to start taking precautions if you plan to host or attend a Thanksgiving dinner, even if you have been slacking over the past few months. The next two weeks are critical for families who wish to gather safely.
- Wear a mask every time you go out and every time you’re near other people. It’s not that hard.
- Stop going to restaurants, gyms, and other crowded locations. If you have been lax, it’s time to get serious before the holidays. Your choices over the next few weeks could affect more than just you if you choose to participate in holiday gatherings.
- If you’re experiencing any symptoms, get tested now. If you’re not experiencing any symptoms, consider getting tested anyway.
- Ask your family members whether they are taking increased precautions before the holidays, and make sure that your definition of precautions aligns with theirs. “I wear a KN95 everywhere I go, and I work remotely” is different from “I went to dinner with colleagues yesterday, and I’m going on a mini-vacation with my friends next Friday.” Get on the same page about how you plan to keep your family safe.
According to the Governor, there should be no gatherings of more than 10 people. Whether you agree or disagree, and whether you plan to comply or disobey, one thing remains true: your choices affect other people, and those people might not be with us next year if your choices put them in danger.
A gathering of 10 people who have literally been quarantining is likely to be safer than a gathering of 3 people who have been ignoring COVID safety precautions for months. The larger the gathering, however, the more difficult it is to ensure that everyone has been doing their part.
With two weeks to go, it’s not too late to start doing the right thing.