Thanksgiving – Governors and mayors are stepping up mandates of the masks and imposing restrictions on small gatherings blamed for accelerating the spread of the coronavirus.
If you have friends to socialize in Pennsylvania, you should wear a mask — and so are your friends. That’s the rule, but Barb Chestnut doesn’t intend to follow it.
“No one is going to tell me what I can or not do in my own home,” said Chestnut, 60, of Shippensburg. “They do not pay my bills, and they are not going to tell me what to do.”
As governors and mayors making their best decisions to alleviate the pandemic that has gotten out of hand, they are imposing mask mandates and restrictions on small internal gatherings, which have been blamed for accelerating the spread of the coronavirus. But if such measures bear the weight of the law, in practice they are unenforceable, and officials rely instead on voluntary compliance.
While many will no doubt heed public health advice – cut back on Thanksgiving plans, avoid meetings, wear masks when surrounded by people who do not live with them. Some of the population will inevitably remove new state and local restrictions and socialize anyway. Experts say it could put more pressure on overcrowded hospitals and lead to an even more significant spike in illness and death during the holidays.
“When this started in early March, we weren’t staring at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we didn’t have the disease reservoir that we have. And that, to me, is the biggest concern in the next few weeks,” said Dr David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He called the risk of a Thanksgiving spike “extremely high.”
According to the latest data of John Hopkins University, the USA is recording an average of 172,000 new cases of the virus per day, almost double since the end of October. Hospitalizations, deaths, and the percentage of positivity tests have also skyrocketed as the nation approaches Thanksgiving.
In response, elected officials are imposing restrictions that, with few exceptions, fail to comply with widely held orders to stay at home and the closure of businesses seen in the spring.
Utah and Vermont have banned all forms of social gatherings. The same is true for the local governments of Philadelphia and Dane County, Wisconsin. No more than eight people from two households are allowed to congregate in Kentucky; in Oregon, the gathering limit is six. California has imposed a night curfew. More and more states are demanding masks, including those with long-standing GOP governors. The nation’s top health officials are begging Americans to avoid Thanksgiving trips.
The holidays will be serene this year.
Tamika Hickson, co-owner of a party rental company in Philadelphia, said Thanksgiving was a bust even before her hometown moved to ban indoor gatherings of any size.
AAA projects Thanksgiving travel will decrease by at least 10%, which would be the strongest plunge in a year since the Great Recession of 2008. But that still means that tens of millions of people on the road. People talk defiantly about their Thanksgiving plans on social media and arguing that nothing is stopping them from seeing friends and family celebrate the holidays.
More than one million people stormed U.S. airports on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the highest number since the pandemic began.
Dr Debra Bogen, health director of Allegheny County, Pa., Which includes Pittsburgh, said too many people had ignored public health guidelines and the result has been an uncontrolled spread of the virus.
“For the past few weeks, I’ve asked people to follow the rules, curtail gatherings and parties, stay home except for essentials, and wear masks. I’m done asking,” Bogen said at a press conference, her frustration palpable. She announced a residence notice which, in his opinion, would turn into a warrant if people didn’t follow the rules.
Some people underestimate the risk to themselves, their friends and family, said Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who has written on COVID-19 risk analysis and communications. Others doubt what health officials tell them about the virus.
Fischhoff affirmed the absence of a coherent national strategy against the pandemic; patchwork and seemingly arbitrary restrictions at federal and local levels; and ineffective, politicized and contradictory public health reports had created confusion and distrust.