An epidemiologist’s family wanted to celebrate the harvest festival in a garage with tables ten feet apart and the door open. Another epidemiologist’s family foregone traditional food and instead roasted the neighbors outdoors with hot cider. A third epidemiologist planned to eat in an outer tent with a heater, humidifier and air purifier.
And according to an informal survey by the New York Times of 635 epidemiologists, the vast majority of them will not celebrate this day with people they do not live with. Public health professionals from various fields responded to our questionnaire. Not everyone studies Covid-19, but everyone has professional training that enables them to assess the spread and risk of diseases.
79% of respondents said they would share their Thanksgiving lunch or dinner with the people they share their home with or with anyone. Only 21% said they would eat with people outside their family, and in most cases they described special care they would take to do so safely. The answers are similar to those they have given for other winter holidays in the northern hemisphere such as Christmas and Hanukkah.
Around 8,000 epidemiologists were invited to participate in the research, which was distributed by email to members of the Society for Epidemiological Research and individual scientists.
The holiday season comes as the coronavirus spreads across the United States with renewed vigor. Over the past 14 days, the number of cases has increased by 77% and that of deaths has increased by 52%. On Thursday (19) the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Americans to avoid traveling and celebrate the holidays only with those they live in the same house with. Epidemiologists make the same personal decisions, but have additional expertise.
“As difficult as it is not to be with family and friends on such occasions, we respect the virus and know that no system or level of personal protection is perfect,” said Bruce Copley, an epidemiologist who works as a private advisor and did not intend to celebrate the day. Thanksgiving with someone outside of your immediate family.
Another epidemiologist, Kendra Sims, a graduate student at Oregon State University, decided to skip a special Thanksgiving dinner this year. “Nothing tastes as good as feeling safe,” she said.
Some people got together with family or friends to cook different dishes, people changed dishes, and then came home to eat alone. Others isolate themselves 14 days or more before vacation without contact with other people and do multiple coronavirus tests. Others still only invite the people they share their isolated “bubble” with. An epidemiologist said she had drawn up a “Constitution of Permitted Activities” to ensure that everyone follows the same rules. Many will celebrate Thanksgiving with Zoom.
“I live alone,” said Bill Strohsnitter, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “I usually have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving, but this year I plan to stay home and just talk to family and friends on Skype or Zoom. That must be why the NFL gave us all of the Peru Day games. “
Epidemiologists stressed that their decisions depend on several factors, including the extent of the virus in the area they live in, the degree of isolation of the people they might meet and the ability to eat in the safest possible way, for example outdoors.
“We’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving outdoors with small tables and portable heaters,” said Erin C. Dunn, associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Epidemiologists also take into account personal circumstances. Some of them said they would invite individuals to have dinner with them, students who came home, or relatives who were recently widowed. Some said they were looking for a safe way to get together on Thanksgiving for the sake of their own mental health.
“Graduate students are lonely people,” said Nina Masters, a graduate student at the University of Michigan who plans to travel from Ann Arbor to New York to meet her parents. “I’ll be preventively isolating myself for three weeks, a time above normal, just in case.”
Others said their decision was based on their own health concerns or the age or health problems of their family members.
“Family verification is something that re-energizes and makes us happy,” said Danielle Gartner, a researcher at Michigan State University. But she is pregnant and said she was aware of the risks to her own health and that of the baby. “With the increase in cases in Michigan, we have decided it is better to cancel our plans for a face-to-face meeting. This also applies to Christmas. “
Others said that as public health experts with a deep understanding of how an individual’s actions could endanger the wider community, they felt it was their duty to cancel Thanksgiving plans or that they had no plans to begin the conversation.
“Everyone must make their own contribution to the well-being and public health of our families, neighbors, strangers and, most importantly, health professionals and others who have to continue to provide services to the public,” said Anna Gorczyca, professor and research fellow at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Several epidemiologists emphasize that it is a short-term victim as recent news of high-potency vaccines suggests that it will be possible to safely meet others in the next holiday season or even sooner.
Mollie Wood, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati, considered taking a nine-hour drive to see her mother, but decided to wait.
“I miss her so much, but I couldn’t convince myself that there is a way to be sure,” she said. “So we’re going to be video chatting on Thanksgiving this year and making plans for a big party next year.”