As we race towards Thanksgiving, the US has hit a new peak of “Over 82,000 Cases in Single Day…13 States Endure Their Worst Week Yet” according to the New York Times.

“One of American culture’s most cherished traditions is for a mix of young and old people from different households to sit close together and share food in a poorly ventilated space without masks for an extended period of time. It is called Thanksgiving.

This year, the holiday season is laced with danger. Individually, Americans have been tempted over and over during the pandemic to violate public health experts’ recommendations, whether by the celebration of a family milestone or a drink at a bar. But the holiday season represents a different, more collective sort of temptation that is likely stronger than any of the ones that came before it”, says Joe Pinsker from the Atlantic.

Given the heightened danger of gathering in spaces indoors that are not well ventilated, Christine and I are among many other American who are responding to this concerning news by cancelling our plans to have friends over for Thanksgiving this year. However, we are going to create some other ways to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 and we suggest you consider doing some of the other options.

The New York Times earlier reminded us, “In less than a year, the coronavirus has killed more than 220,000 Americans. But even that staggering number downplays the true toll of the pandemic according to a recent analysis…. ‘Think of everything that a person does in a year,’ said Stephen Elledge, a geneticist at Harvard. ‘Who among us would not give anything to have one more year with a parent, a spouse, a son or a daughter, a close friend?’

If you approach Thanksgiving 2020 without the loss of family or friends to the Coronavirus, not only give thanks, but also reach out to those who have not been as fortunate. Christine and I are going to call family or friends and let them know how grateful we are for them on Thanksgiving 2020. We are also going to join many others by reaching out to families who are out of work, have little to feed their kids and have little to give thanks for. Look at my last post on ways our churches can partner with churches in communities where the pandemic recession has caused many families to lose their jobs.

For People of Faith Thanksgiving is Always a Season of Sharing

Thanksgiving is approaching during not only the Corona Pandemic, but also the crushing Corona Recession in which growing numbers of families don’t have enough food to feed their families. This is particularly true in Black and Latino communities. I urge you, your family, and local church to not simply provide a food basket for Thanksgiving, but to influence your church to develop ongoing partnerships with churches in neighborhoods with high levels of unemployment to provide essential food. It is also essential to join those seeking to provide jobs so our neighbors and their families have something to be thankful for as well as we struggle through the Corona Pandemic and the Corona Recession, which we discussed last week.

Join Those Creating a Virtual Thanksgiving 2020!

AARP, concerned for their older members who are at greater risk, suggested a range on innovative ways to celebrate a virtual Thanksgiving that you might consider.

AARP has a formula for not only reducing your nervousness but also the risk to you and your loved ones as the rate of Coronavirus infections are accelerating again as we race towards Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

AARP offers a creative way to celebrate Thanksgiving that totally reduces the risk of inadvertently creating a potentially contagious gathering by creating a “virtual Thanksgiving.”

The AARP team reports that they have been reducing their face-to-face contact in recent months to stay safe. “Yes, we’ve been Zooming, Skyping, Teaming, Webexing and/or Google Meeting since early spring, because of the coronavirus. But as Thanksgiving approaches, this might be the first major holiday in which families hold a beloved traditional meal together via an online teleconference, rather than around the same table, which ups the stakes for hosts.”

“One solution is to stage a virtual gathering for would-be attendees. But to make it engaging for those watching on-screen, you need to think like a producer. Here’s some pro advice to make this as easy as pumpkin pie.

1. Take hosting seriously

It sounds ridiculous, but Zoom calls aren’t all that different from late-night talk-show segments,” says TV producer Marc Liepis, who has overseen specials for John Legend and Questlove. “They’re conversations, but they also have a degree of preparation to them.”

2. Share a detailed plan

What’s the start time? When should everyone have their turkey ready? Who should speak, and in what order? Keep in mind that attention spans are shorter online. ‘At our first Zoom comedy show, we gave each performer 10 minutes,’ says producer Marianne Ways, who has worked with Jim Gaffigan and Janeane Garofalo. ‘We wound up cutting it to five.’

3. Stay steady

‘It’s jarring to see people walking around on-screen,’ Ways says. Her stand-up shows became sit-downs.

4. Stage a run-through

Hold a sort-of rehearsal, especially with participants who are less tech savvy, so they feel comfortable on Thanksgiving. ‘When you’re producing a talk-show interview, the unexpected stuff is also the best stuff,’ Liepis says. ‘Preparation and a host who is quick on their feet allows for that to happen.’”

Advice For Those Still Intending to Gather

Hartford Health Care reminds us “with the winter holidays approaching, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged Americans to make safer choices when planning their 2020 holiday gatherings as the COVID-19 pandemic causes infection rates to climb.

His holiday will not include visits with his children due to safety concerns, he said, and he urged others to follow.

To help people frame COVID-era holidays, the Centers for Disease Control also ranked activities by risk.

For example, low-risk options include:

  • Dining only with people living in your home.
  • Hosting a virtual meal for extended family and friends
  • Preparing traditional dishes to deliver safely to family and neighbors.
  • Lower the risk by feasting outdoors like a cookout or plating people’s food to avoid multiple hands in serving bowls.

It’s important to train our minds to look at the positive, said Dr. Laura Saunders, a psychologist at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.”

Given the growing risks posed by the pandemic in 2020, we encourage you to consider joining those doing a virtual Thanksgiving, to use Thanksgiving as a day to connect with friends or loved ones or serving a meal outdoors, where that is possible, with masks and distancing. However, I urge us all to enlist our churches to reach out to the growing number of families in most of our communities that are unable to provide food for their children as we head into this very hard winter season.