CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — 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 has been upended by the pandemic, with infections and deaths increasing 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, was scaled back significantly. The route was a block long, rather than 2.5 miles; balloon handlers were replaced by specially rigged vehicles; and spectators weren’t allowed to line the streets as before.
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.”
Experts warn that large gatherings on Thanksgiving could significantly boost a death toll that has exceeded 260,000 nationwide.
Despite advice from the health experts 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 canceled travel plans and instead connected with loved ones over FaceTime or Zoom.
Zoom scrapped its 40-minute time limit on Thanksgiving day to make it easier for loved ones to gather virtually.
Margaret Bullard, a public defender in Atlanta, said she and her husband have taken every precaution since the onset of the pandemic, which came soon after the birth of her 9-month-old son. They drove from their home in Marietta, Georgia, to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with her in-laws, who have been equally fastidious in limiting potential exposure to COVID-19.
“As much as we would like to see some other family members, we know that we would be taking a much bigger risk by doing so,” said Bullard, who is co-administrator of a Facebook group for “Covid-conscious” Georgians. “There will be plenty of opportunities for get-togethers in the future if we all do what we can to stay safe.
Reuters contributed to this report.