We are approaching the end of a tumultuous year. The Hanukkah and Christmas holidays are just around the corner, which are traditionally joyous occasions. The reality is, though, that for many families, joy is in short supply right now.
The reason is that we’re seeing a sharp Covid-19 infection and death spike following the Thanksgiving holiday. Many people traveled for Thanksgiving and attended large gatherings, and many of them did not wear masks or practice social distancing.
Let us examine why that happened and what that means going forward.
In some ways, the holiday season is dangerous every season. The NHTSA states that over the past five years, 300 people, on average, died in drunk driving crashes nationwide around Christmas and New Year’s. This year, though, the pandemic was the biggest and most pressing danger.
So, why did many people risk their lives to travel for Thanksgiving? Two of the reasons were:
They got contradictory advice
They don’t want to stay home anymore
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that masks help stop the virus’s spread and social distancing works, some individuals refuse to believe and will not comply. That is because they are still getting contradictory advice from various government officials rather than the US taking a single, unified treatment and prevention approach.
Uncertainty About What to Do
Think about it. If you get your news mostly from Facebook, and you keep hearing that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, or even that the pandemic is a hoax, why wouldn’t you travel for Thanksgiving?
Maybe you even hear arguments both for and against mask-wearing. You don’t know who to trust, so you decide to throw caution to the wind. Many surveys indicate that people are more inclined to do these things if they don’t personally know anyone yet who has caught the virus or died from it.
Pandemic fatigue also plays into what’s happening. Pandemic fatigue:
Occurs with individuals who have followed the rules for months at a time
Is even harder to shake with the cold weather coming on
For families and individuals who have been in lockdown for most of 2020, the idea of having to continue through the long, cold winter is particularly difficult to take. Many felt like it was worth the risk to travel across the country to see the relatives for the first time in months.
What is Going to Happen?
It’s understandable why so many people traveled. They felt the stifling restrictions and wanted to socialize. Humans are social creatures, and many of them don’t agree with the pandemic’s severity or even feel like it doesn’t exist.
The reality is, of course, that the pandemic does exist, and we are seeing the results of these reckless actions right now. Thanksgiving travelers who are back home after large, mask-less gatherings are now feeling sick, and when they get Covid-19 tests, many will realize that they have it.
Some will need hospital attention, and in almost all states, there are not many beds available. Hospital staff members face exhaustion and supply chain issues, just like when the pandemic began.
Some parts of the US did reasonably well for several months, but now, we are seeing more deaths and climbing infection rates again.
The Coming Year
The reason all of this is happening is that the pandemic doesn’t care if we’re bored with it. It’s going to continue until everyone in the country receives a vaccine or until everyone at once agrees to lock down in the strictest possible way.
Neither one of those things is probably going to happen. Even though medical science is working on a vaccine, and there appear to be several on the way, some individuals are already saying they will refuse to get one. For a vaccine to work, we need the majority of people to take it.
As for everyone getting serious and locking down, that isn’t any more likely. There are still people who will refuse to believe that Covid-19 even exists, even when their family members die from it.
2020 has been a challenging year, yet 2021 probably isn’t going to be much better, at least not in the early going. If America can get widespread vaccine distribution in the later months, that might be the best-case scenario. If President-elect Biden can implement a multiple-month mask mandate, that should help too.
In the meantime, many Thanksgiving travelers are paying for their mistake in the harshest possible way.