Photo by David Kawai / Bloomberg - Getty Images
Photo by David Kawai / Bloomberg - Getty Images

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spike across the United States, public-health officials, local leaders and others are urging Americans to rethink their typical Thanksgiving plans this year. “I would encourage everyone to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] guidelines and plan for a smaller dinner, with your immediate household family only,” New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said during a Nov. 5 press briefing; his state, like many others, is facing a frightening new wave. “We do not want anyone’s Thanksgiving to lead to more cases of COVID-19.”

Prolonged indoor gatherings of many people from different households, after all, are a major risk factor for viral spread. Moreover, it’s tough to keep a mask on when you’re busy shoving grandma’s turkey and stuffing into your face, and alcohol consumption can make people less careful about practicing social distancing. One especially alarming analysis suggests the odds of having at least one COVID-19-positive person at a moderately-sized Thanksgiving gathering this year could be nearly 100% in some hard-hit parts of the country, and only slightly less elsewhere.

Will this year’s Thanksgiving gatherings lead to more viral spread in the U.S.? For a decent prediction, we need only look to our friends to the north, as Canada celebrated its version of Thanksgiving almost exactly a month ago, on Oct. 12. While Canada was already on an upward trajectory for COVID-19 even before Thanksgiving, several Canadian experts told me that, yes, the holiday almost definitely made things even worse.

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