Thanksgiving 2020: Pandemic Peril and Perspectives

This year’s Thanksgiving is the first one affected by COVID-19.

Mainly because SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, didn’t exist a year ago. Or hadn’t spread to humans. Or was spreading to humans without anyone noticing it.

Whatever was happening last November, SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t identified until December.

The COVID-19 outbreak became a Public Health Emergency of International Concern last January. By the end of March, it was an official pandemic.

The disease has killed upwards of 1,380,000 folks so far. We still don’t have a ready-for-humans vaccine.1

Conspiracy Theories and the Usual Suspects

The COVID-19 pandemic is scary.

Maybe that’s why some folks insist that it isn’t real.

Or that it’s a bio-engineered population control plot spread by 5G mobile phone networks and polio vaccine.

And that America, China, Jews, Muslims or whoever are the Master Villains.

For all I know, someone believes that America, China, Jews and Muslims are in cahoots.

I figure the disease is real. So is the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This year’s conspiracy theories are real only in the sense that some folks believe them.

On the ‘up’ side, I’ve yet to see a pandemic-themed End Times Bible Prophecy get traction.

Maybe there’s one in the works. We’ve got a great conjunction coming December 21, a few days before Christmas. Jupiter and Saturn will be closer in Earth’s sky than they’ve been since 1623.

Or maybe it’s too soon after the recent “Blood Moon Prophecy.” Which fizzled.

Two American preachers took a recurring and predictable sequence of lunar eclipses, stirred in snippets from Joel, Acts and Revelation, and got at least their 15 minutes of fame in 2014 and 2015.

I don’t know why folks believe conspiracy theories, End Times Bible Prophecies and Ponzie schemes.2 And that’s another topic. Topics.

Or maybe not so much.

I suspect that at least some folks have short memories. Or, putting a positive spin on it, have achieved mastery of living in the moment.

The “Unprecedented” Precedent

David J. Phillip/AP's photo, via KXAN: 'residents are rescued from their homes surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas.')Headlines abound with superfluous superlatives: announcing that something’s the biggest, hottest, coldest, longest or whatever-est ever seen.

Sometimes they’re right.

And sometimes maybe they’re not:

The Boston Herald’s “unprecedented” headline may make sense.

I’ll willingly believe that Interfaith Social Services of Quincy, Massachusetts, has never had so many families without holiday meals and so few turkeys.

But “Colorado Families … Unprecedented Thanksgiving?”

I’ll grant that all or nearly all folks living in today’s Colorado weren’t there during the 1918 pandemic. But Colorado was not uninhabited back then. Not even after Charlie Phye, Jessie May Hines-Phye and their six children died.

They weren’t the only folks living in Colorado at the time.

  • 1918: When the flu came to CSU
    Kate Jeracki; with additional research by Mark Luebker, Office of the President, Vicky Lopez-Terrill, Cory Rubertus, University Archives and Special Collections; College News, Colorado State University (March 23, 2020)
  • Gunnison Colorado
    Influenza Encyclopedia, University of Michigan Library
  • The Phye Family
    Judy Walker, Dr. Adrienne LeBailly; The Pandemic Influenza Storybook

I’ve learned to expect puffery, exaggeration and outright misdirection in headlines. I understand that news editors are obliged to beguile readers. Even so, the long-established “unprecedented” precedent annoys me.

“Dread of Influenza Peril” — Thanksgiving and the 1918 Pandemic

Etzel and Page Avenues, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1918: another case of the flu.
(From St. Louis Post Dispatch, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Spanish flu article from The Argonaut. (November 27, 1918)Today’s COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just like the 1918 “Spanish flu.”

But it’s not entirely different.3

Back in 1918, some folks were wearing face masks. Some weren’t. And a distressing number of people were dying.

Newspapers were discussing current events, rules and the menacing malady.

My language has changed a bit. These days, SATC stands for Sex and the City. In 1918, it was short for Student Army Training Corps.

Judging from context, I’d say that [redacted] in the “Dread of Influenza…” headline meant thwarted or stifled.

Family, Health and Travel Decisions

'If you do travel,' Thanksgiving 2020, CDC.Fast-forward to this Thanksgiving season.

Some of us are wearing face masks. Some aren’t. And a distressing number of us are dying.

My state’s health department and the CDC say that staying home is a good idea.

I think they’re right.

But the idea is arguably a hard sell. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my culture’s two top times for family get-togethers.

Deciding to skip something we’ve done for generations isn’t easy.

Family is important. Health is important. So is working for the common good. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 1882, 22072211, 22582317, 22882290)

Like I said, it’s not easy.

As of Tuesday, it looks like about half of us decided that changing Thanksgiving travel plans was a good idea.

Coronavirus: Millions travel for Thanksgiving despite warnings
BBC News (November 24, 2020)

“…Three million people are reported to have already travelled through US airports from Friday to Sunday.

“But the number is around half the usual figure for Thanksgiving travel….”

Holiday Plans

Streaming together for ThanksgivingMy household and I will be staying home this Thanksgiving.

Partly because my wife and I have graduated from mom and dad to grandma and grandpa.

And partly because health issues make staying put a reasonable option.

My personal plans include watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Macy’s website says coverage is “only on NBC,” and on “Verizon Live.” Maybe I can see their ‘come in and shop’ celebration again this year. It depends partly on me finding it online.

My family plans are of the ‘whatever happens, happens’ variety. Nobody, happily, is expecting me to coordinate events.

Which reminds me. I’d intended to include the following links, so here they are:

COVID-19 and Sauk Centre’s Hospital: “a Really Big Deal”

I’m not happy about Sauk Centre’s hospital being designated as a COVID-19 facility.

But the decision seems reasonable, given how many folks are getting sick.

I sincerely hope CentraCare Sauk Centre’s staff get the equipment they’ll need.

CentraCare to make Sauk Centre a COVID-19 hospital
Kirsti Marohn, MPR (November 19, 2020)

“Central Minnesota’s largest health care provider announced Thursday it will designate its hospital in Sauk Centre to care exclusively for patients with COVID-19.

“Starting Monday, COVID-19 patients from around the region who do not require ventilators or high-volume oxygen will be cared for at the western Stearns County hospital….

“…’Telling someone from Sauk Centre that you are now going to be delivering your baby in Melrose — to the outsider, that seems like an 8-mile drive,’ he [CentraCare-Melrose administrator Bryan Bauck] said. ‘To the insider … that’s a really big deal, because my local facility is having to change and react to help better serve our communities and respond to the COVID-19 surge.'”

And it’s nice to see someone recognizing that getting our health care facilities reshuffled is “a really big deal.”

Waking Up: Always a Good Thing

One more thing, and I’m done for today.

This week’s big holiday is “Thanksgiving.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress. Regional hospitals are running out of room for patients.

I haven’t caught COVID-19, but I’ve still got diabetes and a mess of other health issues.

And nobody’s abolished war, poverty or infomercials. With so much dreadfulness going on, what do I have to be thankful for?

For starters, I woke up this morning. That’s always good. Which is why “I thank you, Lord, for having preserve me during the night” is part of my morning prayer routine.

And that’s yet another topic.

More, mostly this year’s pandemic:

1 Something new:

2 Same old, same old:

3 Pandemic? Been there, done that:

About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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