Shortly after Emily Michalik got together with family last Easter, she started feeling off - she was fatigued, developed shortness of breath and had eye pain. When she tested positive for COVID-19, she feared she may have spread it to her parents and her sister.
“That means on Sunday I had already been exposed and was already potentially able to contribute the germs... so unbelievably deeply thankful that we chose not to take any extra risks because my family was totally fine,” Michalik said.
Michalik says her family took precautions. They got together in her garage with good ventilation, and they all stayed six feet apart from one another.
These days, she still has some lingering symptoms: fatigue, and a weak sense of smell.
But she does plan to spend Thanksgiving with her family this year. Her parents will bring their camper and park it at the end of the driveway, and everyone will bring their own dishes. She knows it won’t be a normal holiday.
“Having gone through actually being diagnosed and everything, it’s just not worth it,” she said.
Public health officials have been issuing strong warnings about Thanksgiving. These kinds of social events - where we relax with people we know well - are one of the ways COVID-19 is spreading in communities.
Federal and state experts are discouraging any gatherings with people who are not members of the immediate household. And states surrounding New Hampshire have been taking an even more serious approach. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has banned multi-household gatherings as Thanksgiving nears.
Holiday travel, the CDC warns, is also a major risk and heavily discouraged this Thanksgiving. In New Hampshire, anyone traveling between New Hampshire and any state outside of New England must quarantine for 14 days, or for 7 days with a negative COVID-19 test.
Elliot Hospital president Dr. Greg Baxter warns that if we don’t play it safe this year, there could be serious consequences.
“...We can all get lulled into thinking no one is getting infected, or people who are infected aren’t getting sick. I’m here to tell you they do get sick, and it’s a predictable rate, and if people are unbridled in their social gatherings, it’s quite predictable that post-Thanksgiving before Christmas, we’ll all have a lot of misery,” Baxter said.
CJ Seufert of Hill has already had a lot of misery. He says his construction business has been hit hard. And he’s lost many of his friends this year, some due to suicide.
Seufert says the pandemic has changed his outlook on life. And he doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunities to see the people he loves. He’s going to three Thanksgiving celebrations indoors, one with 15 to 20 of his friends.
“We’re just over it, you know? Whether this virus is here or not, people are gonna go. People are gonna die. And I’m not spending another minute not seeing the people that I enjoy spending time with. Something’s going to take us regardless,” Seufert said.
But Tori Cullen, a nurse in Nashua, says she can’t take that kind of risk. She and her coworkers are bracing themselves for a surge in hospitalizations come December, and she’s weighing whether to see anyone at all.
“I love my family, and I love my aunts and uncles like they’re second parents. I miss them so truly and brutally that I wish more than anything that I could just go to Thanksgiving and eat mashed potatoes and stay up way too late and just talk and talk for hours but, I can’t,” Cullen said.
This year, her family might be celebrating Thanksgiving over Zoom.