America celebrates scaled-back Thanksgiving as COVID-19 surges
Thanksgiving, normally a day for family and friends to gather in large numbers to feast and remember life's blessings, has been upended by the pandemic, with infections and deaths surging in recent weeks as cooler temperatures push people indoors where the virus spreads more easily. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, a spectacle of giant character balloons that has delighted children for nearly a century, has been scaled back significantly.Reuters | Updated: 26-11-2020 21:10 IST | Created: 26-11-2020 21:10 IST
Americans awoke on Thursday to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day transformed by the coronavirus pandemic, with the traditional Macy's parade limited to a television-only event and many families resigned to meeting on video for turkey dinner. Thanksgiving, normally a day for family and friends to gather in large numbers to feast and remember life's blessings, has been upended by the pandemic, with infections and deaths surging in recent weeks as cooler temperatures push people indoors where the virus spreads more easily.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, a spectacle of giant character balloons that has delighted children for nearly a century, has been scaled back significantly. The route is a block long, rather than 2.5 miles; balloon handlers have been replaced by specially rigged vehicles; and spectators will not be allowed to line the streets as before. The event kicked off on Thursday morning with a series of musical performances and balloons, including a four-story-tall one of the lead dog from the cartoon series PAW Patrol -- all without the usual millions on hand to watch from the street.
The rainy weather did not deter Moriah Hargrave, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, who had come as close as she could to the action near Macy's flagship store in midtown Manhattan with the hopes of stealing a glimpse of country music star Dolly Parton, who is among the artists slated to perform. "We came to just knock out a few things on our bucket list for New York City," said Hargrave, 36. "It's a little sad to be this far away. But it's fun to be here and I'm glad it's not too cold."
U.S. hospitalizations for COVID-19 reached a record of more than 89,000 on Wednesday, and experts warn that Thanksgiving could significantly boost a death toll that has exceeded 260,000 nationwide. Despite advice from the Centers for Disease Control to stay home for the holiday, nearly 6 million Americans traveled by air from Friday to Wednesday, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, although that is less than half the figure during the same period last year.
Many Americans see the annual get-together for turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie as important enough to risk possible infection. Nearly 40% plan to attend a "risky gathering" during the holiday season, either in excess of 10 people or with people from outside their household, and a third will not require masks of their guests, according to a national survey by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Many others have canceled travel plans and will instead connect with loved ones over FaceTime or Zoom.
On Wednesday, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo implored her constituents to make Thanksgiving gatherings as small as possible, arguing it would save lives. With hospitalizations surging, the state will begin a two-week "pause" on Monday, with bars, fitness gyms and other establishments shut down. "If you had that tough phone call with Mom and Dad and said 'I'm not coming over for Thanksgiving this year,' ... thank you," she told a news conference. "If you haven't done that it's not too late."
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