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If you are unable to visit family due to the COVID-1

9 pandemic, host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner instead.

USA TODAY

For Jennifer Broderick, the decision to spend Thanksgiving alone was surprisingly simple.

Her mother is a cardiology nurse, her sister works in a nursing home, and Broderick has taught personal classes as an assistant biology professor at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania. As they all interact with people outside their immediate family every day and expose them to COVID-19, Broderick said she wants to stay home.

She can cook a turkey “with” her family via Zoom, or she’s thinking of making an unconventional meal on this unconventional holiday: tacos.

“Because I’m interested in my family and friends, this is one thing I can do to protect them,” said Broderick, 29. “If we could do a good job in quarantine now, it could help increase the number. lower so I can at least think about (seeing them during) Christmas. “

The coronavirus pandemic spread out of control with more than 250,000 Americans dead, schools closing around the country, and the nation has set a new record of infections several times over the past week. It has led people to reconsider their Thanksgiving plans, with many choosing to eat a meal known to the community and family alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans to keep Thursday’s dinner small – ideally only with people already living in their household – and avoid traveling for the holidays. A two-part group of governors and mayors is urging people to follow this advice, arguing that it is more important to be safe now and wait for the more vaccines in production to be finalized.

These recommendations have made this holiday season complicated as families negotiate social distance rules, how to share meals, and whether it should all be interrupted. About one-third of Americans live in one-person households, according to census data.

Taylor Edwards, 28, digital marketing coordinator in Chicago who is still unsure if she will eat alone on Thursday. Her parents are divorced and live in different neighborhoods of the city. Edwards has mostly been at home and stayed away from his parents to adhere to the guidelines, but it is a difficult decision on such a sacred holiday.

Every day that passes makes the decision even harder as COVID-19 cases spread in her Midwestern state, with government JB Pritzker ordering a new restriction round that began Friday after the state’s average daily COVID-19 deaths shot up from 37 per day in October to 84 per day so far in November according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. For now, Edwards plans a brief visit to her parents, but has a backup plan in place: she stays home, prepares a raman pasta dish she found online, and opens a bottle of red wine.

The lack of turkey, she says, is intentional.

“I’m trying to remove the emotional ties from this period,” she said. “I’m definitely not ready. I just know so many people who are still going on Thanksgiving with 10 or 12 people, and I’m like, ‘God, you have kids from college campuses coming in, you have older family members.’

“This time next year we could be in a much better place and I want all my family members to be there.”

In Asheville, North Carolina, Lindsay Ann Spurgeon will be separated this Thanksgiving from a different kind of family: her Alcoholics Anonymous group.

The 41-year-old has been sober for just over a year, but the pandemic has made it extremely strenuous as most AA meetings have been canceled. One of her groups tried to host a meeting outside, but it was difficult with all the cars roaring past. They have held meetings via Zoom, but Spurgeon said it does not provide nearly the same kind of support as the personal meetings.

The holiday season is one of the most dangerous for people who are recovering, given all the social gatherings that encourage drinking, the cold weather that drives people in and the emotions associated with the holiday. That’s why her group held a day-long meeting last year on Thanksgiving. Spurgeon is sorry it can not happen again in 2020.

“These encounters are life or death,” Spurgeon said. “For me, it’s mainly the social aspect of having the mutual assurance that we’re all okay, that we’re all doing the right thing, that if I wanted to drink, I could call so and so or go down someone’s house and drinking coffee and talking through it together. But we really can not do that now. “

For many of the country’s seniors, there is no decision to be made – eating alone is simply a lifestyle in 2020.

Ellen Gottke, 72, is retired, widowed, sick and alienated from what is left of her family. She has shut herself off from her friends to protect herself from coronavirus and spent all her days inside her mobile home in Lothian, Pennsylvania.

The all-encompassing silence has been painful for Gottke. One of her first jobs was to run the old telephone boards that are now only seen in classic movies. The work was exhausting, ringing all day, connecting different wires to connect people to different parts of the country. But she loved the work for a simple reason: “I could talk to people.”

And while Thanksgiving used to be a big event for her family, with Gottke making turkey and ham every year, she plans to spend this holiday alone with a Hormel microwave dinner with turkey and dressing.

“It’s awful. Just awful,” she said as she fought back tears. “And then I get so angry when I see people walking around without masks. It’s hard.”

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About 27% of adults aged 60 and over live alone, according to the Pew Research Center. Mark Bucher has seen these tracks play on his cell phone in recent days.

The co-owner of Medium Rare restaurant group based in Washington, DC, made an offer to deliver a Thanksgiving meal to anyone over 70 in quarantine alone. A similar effort during Mother’s Day yielded 225 requests. This time? He has already reached 1,000 meal requests.

“The original intention was to do something uplifting and give back and be grateful for everything we have,” Bucher said. “But honestly, what we’ve learned is that the elderly have been overlooked.”

Bucher said his inbox has been flooded with tragic stories of elderly people suffering alone. He has even received calls from Washington, DC, the government offering packages of personal protective equipment to deliver along with the meals and asking his drivers to report back on the condition of the elderly they visit.

The plethora of requests have made this Thanksgiving drive an all-encompassing endeavor, working with DoorDash to find enough drivers, order enough food to deliver, and talk to private donors who want to help. Bucher had already set up an online fundraiser to help deliver meals throughout this pandemic, and he said those donations would be critical to help all the seniors who have asked him for a hot meal.

“It’s a burden, but for whatever strange reason, I see it as a commitment,” Bucher said. “I feel we need to make this happen.”

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