Op-Ed: How COVID-19 Has Changed Family Gatherings

Group+of+friends+or+family+members+giving+thanks+to+God+at+festive+turkey+dinner+table+together.+Thanksgiving+celebration+traditional+dinner+concept.+Purchased+at+BigStock.com.+

Group of friends or family members giving thanks to God at festive turkey dinner table together. Thanksgiving celebration traditional dinner concept. Purchased at BigStock.com.

Zoe Kaplan

For as long as I can remember, my family has spent Thanksgiving with my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even family friends. This year, however, will be different due to the current global pandemic.

As COVID-19 continues to impact many families every day, I feel so lucky that everyone in my family is safe and healthy. However, that does not mean those of us who have not been affected health-wise are not dealing with changes as well.

Safety precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing have become the new normal. While I feel it is necessary to make changes to ensure everyone stays healthy, some people might feel like taking these steps violates their privacy.

I can see why people might think contact tracing violates their privacy rights, but if it helps protect others from getting sick, I think it’s the right thing to do. During a pandemic, rules and expectations need to change because nothing is normal anymore.

This year, my immediate family decided to have Thanksgiving by ourselves so we can make sure our family—and others—stay safe. 

While this was an easy conclusion for my family to come to, other families in the world disagree. Many people feel like no one should be telling them how to live their lives. That being said, a lot of people are still planning to travel and spend time in large groups for Thanksgiving.

I empathize with people who yearn for a sense of normalcy and to be with their extended family, but I think it is definitely a risky choice.

For me, knowing that I could cause a family member to get sick—especially an elderly one—makes me all the more sure of my decision. I would never want to cause harm to my relatives, even though I miss them every day. Everyone is going through a hard time right now, and everyone has lost something. We need to have empathy for that, and we also need to be aware that everyone has different comfort levels at this point in time.

Seeing family members outside while wearing masks poses a lesser risk of transmission than being inside with a large group and no masks, and different families will make varied decisions on how to celebrate the holidays this year. Again, I understand how much people want to be with their families, but it is also challenging knowing there is always a chance of putting them in danger.

I know not everyone will agree with my opinions and decisions, but I hope everyone is extra cautious this holiday season. I worry that cases will go up after the holidays, and it is our job to try and keep those around us safe.

I hope everyone thinks long and hard about the possible ramifications of their actions and that people choose to celebrate the holidays in a way that works for them—while being as safe as possible.