Politicians’ Attack on Thanksgiving Gatherings, Not “Data-Based”

"Medical mask with the inscription Covid on a white plate. Thanksgiving table top view" (CC BY 2.0) by Marco Verch Professional Photographer

Epidemiologists stated that small gatherings among family members and friends are not driving coronavirus cases. This statement contradicted a series of claims by politicians and public health experts. 

As Americans gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, politicians advanced their rhetorics against family gatherings, declaring that household gatherings were the majority of the cause of the surge of coronavirus infection.

However, epidemiologists studying this virus said there is little evidence to back up these claims.

Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard University, said, “Somebody says something, and somebody else says it, and then it just becomes truth, “she continued saying, “I worry about this narrative that doesn’t yet seem to be data-based.”

In addition to this, epidemiologists also stated that most of the stringent regulations, such as the one imposed by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, forbidding people from separate households to meet outside is contrary to the data they have gathered. This also breeds resentment among Americans who cannot square such order; meanwhile, other activities are still allowed.

Other than Gov. Tim Walz, Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont also barred their neighbors from gathering outside but allows them to dine together at a restaurant. 

In relation to these restrictions, Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease modeler from the University of Toronto, stated, “If people are going to meet up, doing so outdoors is probably the lowest-risk way to do it. Telling people they can’t spend time safely outdoors isn’t a rational approach. People are going to recognize that and push back.”

She added that if an average person is looking at what is allowed and what is prohibited, it might not make sense. “I can get together with nine of my best friends and sit around a table at a restaurant. So why can’t I do that in my house?” she said. 

Even though backyard gatherings and family celebrations are not the main drivers of COVID-19 infections, Governors stuck with their decision to impose stringent restrictions on Americans’ Thanksgiving celebration. 

For instance, in Lost Angeles, city officials mandated restaurants in the city to shut down during the year’s busiest weeks. 

In a statement last Sunday, Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said, “as we modify our Thanksgiving holiday celebrations, we are reminded of the many families who will miss their loved ones who have passed away from COVID-19. We send wishes for healing and peace.” 

She added that the persistently high number of coronavirus cases requires more safety measures. And this includes limiting settings where people are not wearing masks.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also warned New Yorkers about having family over for the holidays. But, the governor received harsh public backlash after it was revealed that he intended to celebrate Thanksgiving with his mother. Due to this vicious blowback, he later canceled his plans. 

During a press conference last week, Cuomo said, “Your family sounds safe, doesn’t it? Your home sounds safe. Your dining room table at Thanksgiving sounds safe. This is a safe environment. I’ll be safe. No, you won’t be safe. It’s an illusion,”

He continued by saying, “My sister loves me. My sister could infect me. Not maliciously, but accidentally. It’s counter-intuitive, what I thought was the safest place and the safest situation in my home at my table with my family. It can’t be any safer than that. That’s a dangerous situation.”