For families who celebrated Thanksgiving 2020 gathered not around a table but around a Zoom screen, the thought of seeing loved ones in person is one of the most anticipated gifts of the season. And I don’t mean through a window. But between concerns about vaccines and Covid variants, some family members are wondering if it’s worth it.
Source: Image by Maggie Poo on Pixbay
Poultry post-pandemic planning
In early 2020, we experienced what I call the bonding power of social distancing over how being forced to stay away brought us closer together. As a holiday season approaches when we can finally get together, a lot of people are afraid to do so. And this year, seating around the Thanksgiving table doesn’t depend on the number of votes, but on immunization status.
And how do you approach the subject in the first place? Vaccination status has slipped onto the list of taboo topics, alongside sex and politics. As for the documentation, you’re probably not going to ask beloved Aunt May to flash her QR code at the door, assuming she even has a smartphone. If you use the honor system, you are taking a leap of faith. Maybe you’re taking a lesson from the great three-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who has been criticized for misleading the public about his vaccine status,[i] and requiring guests to declare that they are “vaccinated” and not “immunized”.
And when it comes to face coverings, are hosts literally stifling vacation conversations by requiring guests to be both vaxxed and masked? After all, many vaccinated people are still uncomfortable being around other unmasked people, even if they are vaccinated. And who controls the room? “Uncle Joe, I’m going to have to ask you to put your mask back on.” ”
Add to that the fact that in most households, the Thanksgiving meal is not characterized by restraint. All of this delicious indulgence and the conversation that goes with it will unfold without a mask. So, unless everyone is also wearing plastic shields and can manage to remember that they are wearing them (in order to avoid crushing them with a fork or wineglass), there is no way to completely escape the risk.
Thomas O’Rourke and Nicholas Iammarino (2021) discussed the psychology of immunization in an article titled “The COVID-19 Challenge Is Now In Your Mind, The Guns Will Follow”.[ii] They note that many diverse methods of encouraging vaccination have been effective, including public awareness and education campaigns, an increasing number of vaccination sites, relaxed eligibility requirements, and employment-based incentives. They recognize the challenge now that a significant percentage of the population has been vaccinated, persuading those who are eligible but remain resistant to the vaccine. To this end, they support messages from healthcare professionals and educators that are behavioral-oriented, but also “factually accurate, persuasive and relevant, and culturally and linguistically appropriate”.
But even if your Thanksgiving table will include one or more medical professionals, this is probably not the right place for such a discussion just yet. Not to mention the fact that you can have guests who have medical or religious exemptions. So, how do loved ones get together safely this holiday season? Here are some ideas:
The great outdoors
The viability of this option depends on where you live. November is a different experience in Miami compared to Minneapolis, although heat lamps can warm the area. This option is best used as an all-or-nothing, to avoid having to relegate only the unvaccinated family patriarch to the patio.
Rapid tests for everyone
Some families do not discriminate; provide rapid tests for everyone, regardless of immunization status. Make sure you have a plan, however, for someone coming out on the wrong side.
One possibility, certainly not a coveted choice, is a social hour before meal on Zoom. Ultra-cautious or immunosuppressed loved ones at least have a chance to see everyone, albeit virtually.
As we enter another unusual holiday season, striving to strike the right balance between holiday planning and disease prevention, we are reminded of the reason for the season. Let us enjoy friends, family, faith and fellowship, with thanks for all that we are fortunate to have.