Like pretty much everything in 2020, Thanksgiving is looking a lot different due to COVID-19.
Many are spending their first Thanksgiving alone or without loved ones. Families are turning video calls into the dinner table. Even the Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are social distancing.
“I know the country has grown weary of the fight,” President-elect Joe Biden said in a Thanksgiving Eve address urging unity. “We need to remember we’re at war with the virus, not with one another. Not with each other.”
Biden gave his address a day after the U.S. reported its deadliest day since May, with more than 2,000 new cases. It could get worse: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday published a national ensemble forecast that predicts 294,000 to 321,000 coronavirus deaths by Dec. 19.
In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, public health officials said infections are skyrocketing, with approximately one out of every 145 people infected with the virus. That estimate was at 1 in 880 residents two months ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.7 million cases and over 262,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 60.3 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Americans still travel despite COVID warnings
For weeks, public health officials repeated warnings not to travel this Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar, yet millions of Americans still took the skies and highways to see loved ones and families, risking infection for a holiday together.
While travel appears to be significantly down from years prior, roughly 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Wednesday. That was a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago, but the more than 1 million people screened at airports Wednesday was the largest since the start of the pandemic.
More Americans drive than fly during the holiday, and while AAA has said it projects car travel to be lower, it has not indicated by how much.
Disney to layoff 32,000 more employees in 2021
Disney plans to layoff around 32,000 more employees in the first half of 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic continue to beleaguer its theme park businesses.
The company made the revelation in an SEC filing Wednesday, and it said the layoffs would primarily affect employees in its parks, experiences and products division.
Disney has taken a sharp hit at its theme parks due to COVID-19 restrictions and decreased attendance. Its Disney World parks in Florida reopened in July after a three-month closure, though there have been some scaling back in hours. However, Disneyland in California remains shuttered.
CDC report: US misses 8 COVID-19 cases for every 1 counted
The United States is still severely undercounting the number of COVID-19 cases it has across its population, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says.
The CDC calculated that about 53 million Americans had been infected by the end of September, eight times under the confirmed cases at the time.
A previous CDC report had estimated the U.S. was undercounting cases by 10 times the amount. Of the 53 million estimated infections, the CDC says about 45 million were sick at some point and about 2.4 million were hospitalized.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marching on despite COVID-19
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebration is still happening this year, but it will look and feel a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air from 9 a.m. to noon ET Thursday, Nov. 26, on NBC. While the festivities have historically drawn massive crowds to the streets of Manhattan — there were about 3.5 million in-person spectators along the 2.5-mile parade route in 2019 — this year all activity will be focused on the Herald Square area of Midtown, and the only way to watch will be on television.
“For New Yorkers who typically see it live and in person, this change for them is that they are going to experience it the same way the rest of the country experiences it,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “But I think for the rest of country, it’s not going to be too different.
“They’re still going to see the balloons. They’re still going to see the floats. They’re still going to see Santa and Broadway and all of these elements that they’re used to seeing every single year. They’re still going to see those things. They might have some differences in that we’re going to see some social distancing. We’re going to have masks, things like that. But it’s still going to be the parade they know and love.”
– Alex Biese, Asbury Park Press
Ohio’s former top health official calls COVID-19 a humanitarian crisis
To Dr. Amy Acton, the surging coronavirus pandemic is the public health equivalent of the Titanic, and not all Ohioans will be able to get on a lifeboat in the end.
“You can’t turn the Titanic on a dime,” said Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health. “So, we’re going down. It’s some amount of going down, so let’s minimize the amount.”
When the pandemic first hit Ohio, Acton and epidemiologists at Ohio State University predicted the state could eventually report around 10,000 new COVID-19 infections per day.
Those projections never came to fruition during Acton’s tenure, leading to harsh criticism for the former health director. Nearly eight months later though, Ohio surpassed Acton’s projection, reporting 11,885 new cases Monday.
“We don’t have a curve to flatten right now. It’s so bad,: Acton said, adding “We’re going to face a moment here, I think it’s going to peak within the next two weeks. … We’re going to see that we have a humanitarian crisis on our own soil.”
– Max Filby, The Columbus Dispatch
SCOTUS blocks NY COVID restrictions on some houses of worship
The Supreme Court placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions Wednesday night, temporarily blocking recent rules in New York that severely restricted gatherings at houses of worship in areas hit hardest by COVID-19.
The court’s new, more conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s limits on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to 10 or 25 worshipers in hard-hit regions appeared to violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the court’s unsigned majority opinion said.
It was a reversal from earlier actions taken by the high court in response to state restrictions on organized religion during the coronavirus pandemic. But since then, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was succeeded by Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
– Richard Wolf
Missouri doctor’s video recreates what COVID patients see ‘at the end’
Dr. Kenneth Remy knows the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on U.S. and he’s confident things will get better in 2021 with an effectively distributed vaccine. First, the country needs to get through the winter — and that means adhering to coronavirus-related precautions like wearing a mask, he said.
That’s why Remy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, made a video to stress the point. The video is meant to be a first-person view of what it’s like to be intubated while breathing too fast – “30, 40, 50 times a minute,” Remy said.
“You’re lying in that bed, looking up at me and others in the room,” he said. “It simulates, basically, what it looks like to breathe, and then, frankly, what it looks like for me to come at you with an endotracheal tube and a laryngoscope.”
He added: “For some patients, that’s all they see at the end of their life. They see that, they get some medicines and they never awaken again.”
– Jordan Culver
Coronavirus postpones national math, reading tests until 2022
A national reading and math test that has long been used to track U.S. student achievement is the latest postponement amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Wednesday.
Concerns over the accessibility of the National Assessment of Educational Progress have postponed the test to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics said.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, typically occurring every two years, had been slated early next year for hundreds of thousands of the country’s fourth and eighth graders. The national assessments are given to a representative sample of students, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, across the 50 states. It is overseen by the government.
– Elinor Aspegren
4 players on MLS playoff team test positive for COVID
Four Columbus Crew players have tested positive for COVID-19, the club announced Wednesday night, four days ahead of Sunday’s home match in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Nashville SC.
According to the club press release, no additional players or staff tested positive on Wednesday. The Crew is still scheduled to train on Friday and Saturday, and has not identified the individuals who have tested positive.
This latest outbreak comes as Ohio continues to see soaring daily numbers of COVID-19 cases. State officials recorded 10,835 new cases on Wednesday.
– Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch
Mink infected with COVID rise from their graves in Denmark
Mink infected with a mutated strain of COVID-19 in Denmark appear to be rising from the dead, igniting a national frenzy and calls from local officials to cremate mink carcasses.
While the sight itself is certainly terrifying for the residents of West Jutland, a region of the country grappling with confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to mink, there is likely a scientific explanation for the zombie-like reemergence from their graves. A Danish police spokesman, Thomas Kristensen, told a state broadcaster that gases form while the body decays underground, according to the Guardian.
“In this way, in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground,” Kristensen said of the nightmarish sight.
The nation has planned to cull all 15 million mink in the country, which produce 40% of the world’s mink fur. Because of the rushed burial, the animals were placed in shallow graves – just over three feet deep. Now, officials plan to bury the creatures in graves nearly double the depth.
– Joshua Bote
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock apologizes for holiday travel
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has apologized for flying to visit family members in Mississippi even as he tweeted out advice to the city’s residents asking them to avoid traveling.
Hancock said his family canceled plans for a large gathering and instead he boarded the plane to visit his wife and daughter who have been staying in Mississippi. Hancock said he believed him traveling alone was lower risk than having both of them return home for the holiday.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” Hancock tweeted on Wednesday.
“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
The contradiction between Hancock’s recommendation and his actions was reminiscent of another elected leader, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had to apologize after reports surfaced of his attendance at a friend’s birthday party in a restaurant, violating the public health guidelines he has been constantly promoting.
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press