Covid Thanksgiving, Round 2
How health experts are thinking about the holidays.
The Morning Newsletter
Covid Thanksgiving, Round 2
How health experts are thinking about the holidays.
Thanksgiving last year in Los Angeles.Credit…Isadora Kosofsky for The New York Times
When I injured my knee a few years ago, it was something of a crisis. I canceled plans and stayed home. When I did venture out, I used crutches and a knee brace. Today, my knee isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t hold me back. I’ve just accepted that I have to do things a little differently.
We regularly take this holistic approach to our personal health. During the crisis phase of an injury or an illness, we do whatever is needed to take care of our bodies. But we never lose sight of the goal: to recover and enjoy life again.
By now, you may have figured out that the point of this story isn’t my knee injury.
In Friday’s edition of The Morning, David Leonhardt wrote about how we might navigate this point in the pandemic, where the coronavirus remains in our lives but vaccinated people in many parts of the country are not in crisis. Today, I’m going to explore how those ideas can help you plan for Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings.
Many of us are now in the recovery phase of this pandemic. During the early crisis, we needed to stay home to stay safe. But now that vaccines are available, it’s time to think holistically — focusing on the mental, emotional and social aspects of our health, too.
“Holidays are so important; they have meaning,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told me. “People have been isolated and fearful for almost two years.”
Of course, a holistic approach works only if you’ve been vaccinated and continue to take a few reasonable precautions. For unvaccinated adults, the pandemic remains a daily threat, and a personal choice to stay unvaccinated will continue to put you and those around you at risk.
The rules are different if you’re celebrating what I like to call “Vax-giving,” a Thanksgiving gathering where everyone who is eligible is fully vaccinated and boosted. Even children ages 5 to 11 can have at least one shot, and some level of protection, by then. Children who are 4 and younger aren’t eligible for shots yet, but they’re still largely protected if they’re surrounded by vaccinated people.
I spoke with Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, about how parents with children too young to get the vaccines should navigate the holidays. Mina is one of those parents, and will be traveling with his infant daughter to a fully vaccinated, four-generation Thanksgiving celebration. Before the gathering, everyone but the infant will take a rapid test. He said his main concern was protecting his 95-year-old grandfather.
“There’s still a lot of virus in the community, but the truth of the matter is, little kids are not exceedingly susceptible to disease with this virus,” Mina said. “I do think that by everyone testing the morning of Thanksgiving or even two hours before dinner, it’s going to massively decrease any risk and make everyone feel more comfortable to be around each other without masks.”
For many people, coping with the anxiety of getting out and about may be the hardest part of adjusting to this new phase of pandemic life.
Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist from Virginia Tech whom many of us have come to rely on for sage advice during the pandemic, is planning a multigenerational gathering for Christmas and New Year that will include air travel. But she said that she and her family had only recently dined indoors for the first time.
“It was a restaurant in a university town where the vaccination rate is high,” Marr said. “I asked if the staff had all been vaccinated. I calculated — almost everyone here, if not everyone, is probably vaccinated; at some point we want to eat out. Let’s go for it.”
Marr said it took a mental adjustment to spend time indoors and unmasked with strangers. “It was a little nerve-racking,” she said. “We kept our masks on until the food came. Baby steps.”
Like winter driving
Going forward, part of living with Covid will mean doing these sorts of on-the-spot calculations to assess risk. It sounds difficult, but it’s the kind of mental calculus that comes naturally with more familiar dangers.
Think about winter driving. We know that thousands of people are injured or killed each year on icy roads, but we don’t stay home all winter. We check the forecast and whether the roads have been plowed. We make sure our cars and tires are in good condition, and then we buckle our seatbelts and hit the road to shop for groceries, go to school or see family for the holidays.
Assessing risk for Covid will be similar and, eventually, just as natural.
It starts with staying aware of local Covid conditions, like hospitalizations and vaccination rates, and avoiding crowds and high-risk gatherings where we don’t know the vaccination status of others. We’ll wear masks when needed and use rapid home tests to keep gatherings Covid-free. And anyone who is sneezing or coughing should always stay home.
Jha says that he remains cautious about Covid when he’s not sure of the vaccination status of those around him, and that he’s willing to skip things “on the margins.” He recently met a friend at a restaurant, and they decided to go somewhere else because it was packed. But he’s planning a Thanksgiving celebration that includes grandparents and children. Everyone who is eligible will be fully vaccinated and have a booster shot.
“Can we do it with 100 percent safety? I don’t know that we could do it with 100 percent safety in 2019,” he said. “I feel like we now know how to manage the risks, and we can do things in a way to keep everyone safe. There’s no reason to keep missing these really important, meaningful times together.”
THE LATEST NEWS
A drive-through vaccination site in Sao Paulo, Brazil.Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times
Brazil has surpassed the U.S. in fully inoculating residents against the coronavirus.
Austria’s new lockdown confines unvaccinated people over age 11 to their homes.
President Biden named Mitch Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans, to oversee spending on his $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Donald Trump’s family business will sell Trump International Hotel, a source of controversy during his presidency, after years of losses.
Republicans have added enough safe House districts to capture control of the chamber based on redistricting alone.
The U.S. military concealed an airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Syria in 2019, a Times investigation revealed.
Other Big Stories
Four lives lost across just one month offer a glimpse of the tragedy of America’s surge in homicides.
“Ghost guns,” assembled from parts bought online, are helping fuel the violence.
A 9-year-old boy became the 10th, and youngest, person to die from injuries sustained at the Astroworld festival in Texas.
The American journalist Danny Fenster was released from prison in Myanmar and will be allowed to leave the country.
Dubai cut off a key route for migrants traveling to Belarus, hoping to halt attempts to funnel them to the Polish border.
Inflation and great-power rivalry give Republicans a chance to campaign like it’s the 1980s, says Ross Douthat.
A letter from Pope Francis gives Michael O’Loughlin hope that dialogue is possible between L.G.B.T. Catholics and church leaders.
Bret Stephens discusses his breakthrough Covid case and Gail Collins talks about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
Sam Asghari, 27, in Los Angeles.Credit…Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times
Mr. Spears: The man marrying one of the world’s biggest pop stars wants his own fame.
Quiz time: The average score on our latest news quiz was 9.3. Can you do better?
The Media Equation: Yet another conservative news outlet has been conquered by Donald Trump.
Advice from Wirecutter: Most sales are shams. Here’s how to find the real deals.
Lives Lived: Petra Mayer was an NPR books editor and self-described “resident nerd” who delighted listeners with her musings about science fiction, comics and cats. She died at 46.
ARTS AND IDEAS
“Braiding,” by Lin Tianmiao. The M+ Museum boasts one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of contemporary Chinese art.Credit…Isaac Lawrence/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Can art survive in Hong Kong?
The M+ Museum in Hong Kong, meant to be Asia’s premier art institution, recently opened its doors after a long and difficult development period. But as Vivian Wang writes in The Times, its greatest challenge is just beginning: the threat of censorship.
The original vision for M+ was tied to Hong Kong’s relative autonomy. “We have the freedom of speech here,” Lars Nittve, the first executive director, said in 2011. “We can show things that can’t be shown in mainland China.” Last year, though, Beijing imposed a national security law that allows the government to prosecute subversive speech in Hong Kong. Officials say they will inspect every M+ exhibit.
The museum must walk a delicate line. This year, after a pro-Beijing lawmaker singled out a photograph by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei — one with his middle finger raised before Tiananmen Square — the museum removed the piece from its website. But two more of Ai’s works remain, as does a painting inspired by a photograph from the Tiananmen massacre.
Wong Ka Ying, a local artist, was optimistic about the museum’s efforts. “It’s safe, but it also touched on humanity and social issues,” she said. “I’m still looking forward to what they can do under so many constraints.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Credit…Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott for The New York Times
This lemony chicken soup is lighter than a traditional stew.
10 Days to Thanksgiving
Turkey’s fine, but sides are the low-key stars of the table. Find inspiration from our Food team’s favorite recipes.
What to Read
“The 1619 Project,” a new book based on the Times Magazine project, is “searing” and “rich in unfamiliar detail,” the historian Adam Hochschild writes in a review.
“Saturday Night Live” featured a 10-minute single-song performance from Taylor Swift.
Now Time to Play
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. Franklin Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington 82 years ago today, calling Thomas Jefferson an “American of many parts.”
Here’s today’s print front page.
“The Daily” is about how the U.S. military hid a deadly airstrike in Syria. On the Book Review podcast, Alan Cumming and Allen C. Guelzo discuss their new works. “Sway” features the composer Hans Zimmer.
Natasha Frost, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.