Tiara Spells is preparing for her first Thanksgiving away from home.
“It’s a little weird,” Spells, 22, said. “Even if we don’t go see other family, we at least have food at our house and dinner together.”
The Ball State University student will spend Thanksgiving with her roommates in Muncie. Despite the difficulty of being away from family during the holiday season, both Spells and her mother think it’s for the best with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise throughout the state.
In Delaware County, where Muncie is located, there have been 968 cases of COVID-19. In Marion County, where Spells is from and her family lives, there have been 39,860 positive cases to date.
While Spells said she may have a Zoom meeting or Facetime her family on Thanksgiving, she isn’t comfortable with the idea of her visiting a “hotspot” for COVID-19.
Her mother, Sandra Tucker-Gayden, said it was Spells’ idea to stay in Muncie for the holidays. While she was hoping to see her daughter, Tucker-Gayden knew it would be safer to stay distanced.
“It’s sad, but Tiara prepared me early with ‘what ifs.’ … We will FaceTime each other, but the CDC says we should be careful and stay away from people.”
To reduce the spread of the virus over the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans to not travel for family gatherings. Instead, doctors say the best course of action is to celebrate only with those who live in your home.
Many Americans aren’t planning to listen to the experts.
According to research from CARS, an online resource on the car industry, roughly 47% of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year. While this is down from 68% in 2019, doctors and city leaders are concerned about the impact traveling could have on COVID-19 numbers.
Further, over 1 million people traveled through airports Nov. 20, the second highest daily total since the pandemic began, according to Bloomberg News. While travelers may not be at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 from riding in a plane while wearing masks, the CDC warns standing in long lines and an inability to socially distance on the plane may increase one’s risk.
Echoing guidance from the CDC, Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, urged Indianapolis residents to celebrate Thanksgiving with just those in your household during a press conference Nov. 12. If you do happen to have extended family over, Hogsett and Caine recommended eating outside while social distancing.
“None of that will be easy, and it will certainly cut down on the holiday fun,” Hogsett said. “But deciding to do these things could truly be a life or death decision for those you love.”
While Tucker-Gayden and Spells are disappointed they won’t be seeing each other on Thanksgiving, they would rather be safe than sorry.
“For people not taking this serious, they should before it’s too late,” Tucker-Gayden said. “We had family and friends taken away from us with this virus, so they really need to be prepared.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.