How COVID-19 will change Thanksgiving 2020


Lexi Langendorf, News Writer

With COVID-19 cases continuously rising in the U.S., Americans will be forced to make fundamental changes to their usual traditions this Thanksgiving.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending smaller, shorter outdoor gatherings with physical distancing wherever possible.

These guidelines, along with statewide mandates, make it increasingly difficult to enjoy traditions that are exclusive to the holiday season.

Abby Kielich, a sophomore at UW-River Falls, said that Thanksgiving break would be very different for her this year.

“Normally, my family would go to my grandma’s house in Chicago and the whole family would get together,” Kielich said. “But now we’re just doing it by ourselves, because we don’t want to risk the rest of the family’s health. Especially since they live in Chicago and that’s a hotspot right now.”

In fact, in an effort to encourage and accommodate smaller gatherings this Thanksgiving, stores are increasing orders of smaller turkeys that are under 16 pounds.

“I don’t think we’ll have a big meal with a turkey and everything,” Kielich said. “I think my mom will just make a regular dinner.”

In addition, Black Friday, a staple event of Thanksgiving break that would normally take place Nov. 27, will undergo changes.

This year, many stores will be open on Black Friday. However, health officials recommend that customers instead take advantage of curbside pickup and online ordering to lower their risk as they complete their holiday shopping.

But according to a LendingTree survey, one in four Americans had already finished their holiday shopping by the first week of October, most likely due to the increased demand for online ordering and shipping.

As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon set a record this year for its biggest profit ever at the height of the pandemic, with revenue increasing by 40% from last year to $88.9 billion.

Bryk Duren, a junior at UW-Milwaukee, said that all of his Christmas shopping would now be done online as a result of the pandemic.

“I normally go Black Friday shopping every year in stores for the good deals and to find all my presents for Christmas,” Duren said. “But this year, due to COVID, I will not be able to attend.”

Additionally, according to a YouGov poll, 25% of consumers are stressed about their ability to afford gifts this year, with 30% of consumers saying they’ll spend less this year due to the current state of the U.S. economy.

“The current state of the economy has had a slight effect on what I will be spending this year,” Duren said. “I will not be looking to buy expensive gifts in case the economy gets worse after the new president has taken office.”

Another popular Thanksgiving event, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, will air nationwide as a television-only event with no audience on Thursday, Nov. 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

With that, NFL games will continue to be televised with reduced audience capacity.

Recently, eight UW System schools have announced that they will adopt an online-only education model after Thanksgiving break.

Students at UW-Madison, UW-Superior, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville, UW-Whitewater, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and UWRF will complete coursework virtually for the rest of the semester following Thanksgiving break.

Ethan Deon, a sophomore at UW-Stout, said that he is disappointed in his school’s plan to remain online for the rest of the semester following Thanksgiving break.

“To be one of the eight schools that are all online irritates me,” Deon said. “I pay thousands of dollars to go to class, use resources and go to college. I feel as though the universities are robbing us because we still pay the same price for less helpful, more confusing work.”

Many other college students share similar emotions, according to a recent survey released by the Charles Koch Foundation and College Pulse, where 90% of respondents said that they believe they should pay less for online courses as they are less effective than in-person education.

UW Oshkosh will continue classes on Nov. 30. However, students who travel for Thanksgiving break must test negative for COVID-19 before they leave and upon their return.

In addition, an email from Chancellor Andrew Leavitt asked students to carefully manage their plans. “The best way to keep ourselves safe is to keep our gatherings limited to those in our households and avoid travel,” he said.

“Traveling and getting together in small groups, particularly with people you have not been with in a while, are common ways COVID-19 is spreading through our communities,” Leavitt said. “If you can stay on campus or in town, please consider staying.”

UWO will also host a Thanksgiving meal for those who stay on campus. This traditional Thanksgiving meal will be to-go and available for pickup 1 to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, at Blackhawk Commons. It will include turkey, ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, salad, rolls and pies.

“Thanksgiving is a time of family, and nothing has disrupted family more than COVID-19 in the last nine months,” Leavitt said. “But the actions we take today will help preserve our families and help us move toward a time where we can be together again.”

How to stay safe this Thanksgiving:

According to the CDC, you can decrease your risk of contracting COVID-19 at gatherings by paying attention to: 

  • The size of the gathering – the smaller the better, physical distancing matters 
  • The location of the gathering – host a gathering outside if possible 
  • The duration of the gathering – the shorter, the better – risk level increases at 15 minutes or more 
  • Spending time only with people who practice safety measures  
  • Community spread – avoid attending gatherings if there is a high level of community spread in your home community or the community where other attendees are from 

Do not attend in-person gatherings if you or anyone in your household: 

  • Has been diagnosed in the past 14 days with COVID-19
  • Has symptoms of COVID-19
  • Is waiting for a COVID-19 test result
  • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • Is in a high-risk category for developing severe illness from COVID-19

Avoid these higher-risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.