You can still roast a turkey. Make that timeless family recipe for stuffing or green bean casserole. Raise a toast to friends and family near and far. But for the sake of your neighbors and loved ones, please make carefully considered, conservative decisions about spending this Thanksgiving with anyone who doesn’t sleep under your roof.
You needn’t spend the day alone; technology offers a host of options for connecting with others, from video chats to texting photographs to the warmth of an old-fashioned telephone call. Gathering outdoors for a distanced ski, walk or sledding is a fine compromise, and a tradition in many Jackson Hole households already.
On next week’s holiday, we’ll give thanks that at least two vaccines being developed are highly effective against COVID-19. No matter our other burdens and blessings, there is a bright, shining light that signals the pandemic could be over in 2021 if enough people are vaccinated.
But to get to the promised land with the most loved ones still alive, we must all make small sacrifices: 2020’s multigenerational Thanksgiving dinner is one of those.
If you need proof of how dangerous it can be to combine multiple households indoors for eating, talking, laughing and hugging, look to our northern border. Canada already had an upward COVID surge a month ago, but two weeks after the country’s version of the holiday, Time magazine reported, Canada saw its highest numbers yet.
In Teton County, after months in the “moderate” risk category, we’re back to the red high-risk zone, with 229 active cases as of Nov. 17.
To try to get a handle on the outbreak that severely impacted its staffing, Teton County School District No. 1’s Board of Trustees voted Nov. 11 to close all schools to in-person education and go online for the week before the weeklong Thanksgiving break. It was the right call to stop in-person school and pause extracurriculars.
Meanwhile, hospitals are filling in Wyoming and in Idaho and Utah, where we transfer our sickest. Wyoming’s frontline health care workers and hospital resources cannot handle the increasing rate of infections requiring hospitalization.
In addition to the three Wyoming counties that have already enacted mandatory mask orders, eight more have requested approval from the state. Last Friday, Gov. Mark Gordon called noncompliant people “knuckleheads” but has so far taken no action. He should follow the lead of governors of surrounding states: Utah and North Dakota have both added a universal statewide mask order. Colorado has had one in place since July. Face coverings are a simple, easy thing we can all do for ourselves and our community, and a statewide order sends a clear message.
There’s more we can all do individually. Limit errands and gatherings. Wear a face covering. Get your flu shot. Wear your seat belt and drive carefully. Don’t take avoidable risks that could land you in the hospital. Order the free VaultHealth test kit for each family member to test safely at home if someone has COVID symptoms.
Let’s all support Teton District Health Officer Dr. Riddell in his request for reducing the size of gatherings. He’s been right before, and he’s right again. Wyoming is embarrassingly behind in creating policies that protect its citizens. Every day without reasonable mask requirements and reduced gathering regulations produces more transmission and death.
If we want a ski season with enough healthy employees to run the lifts, if we want our winter economy to produce much needed revenue and jobs, and if we want our community to thrive, making the right decisions this holiday matters.
In a year when 248,000 Americans and 155 Wyoming residents have already died from COVID-19, the universal goal for this holiday season must be avoiding further spread so that once the pandemic is over, we’ll still be able to celebrate with our loved ones.