US celebrates scaled-back Thanksgiving

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US celebrates scaled-back Thanksgiving

Usually a day for American families and friends to gather, feast on turkey and remember lifes blessings, Thanksgiving has been upended by COVID-19.

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US celebrates scaled-back ThanksgivingRead full articleAndrew Kelly and Nathan Layne26 November 2020, 4:41 pm·2-min read

Americans have celebrated a Thanksgiving Day transformed by COVID-19, with the Macy's parade limited to a TV-only event and many families resigned to connecting online or mourning the loss of loved ones.

Normally a day for family and friends to gather in number to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie and remember life's blessings, Thanksgiving has been upended by the pandemic, especially as cooler weather pushes people indoors where the virus spreads more easily.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, a spectacle of giant character balloons that has delighted children for nearly a century, was scaled back significantly on Thursday.

The route was reduced to one block, rather than four kilometres; balloon handlers were replaced by specially rigged vehicles; and spectators were prohibited from lining streets.

The event concluded at noon after a three-hours of performances, floats and balloons, featuring stars like Dolly Parton and a four-story-tall Snoopy in astronaut gear – all without the usual millions crowding in to watch.

Metal barricades keeping spectators at a distance did not deter people like Brian Campbell, a 55-year old native of Rockaway, New Jersey, who described his fifth year of coming to the parade as “disappointing”.

Moriah Hargrave, 36, of Lafayette, Louisiana, got as close as she could to the action near Macy's flagship store in Manhattan with the hopes of stealing a glimpse of Parton.

“We came to just knock out a few things on our bucket list for New York City,” she said.

“It's a little sad to be this far away but it's fun to be here.”

The holiday is being celebrated at a time of severe economic strain.

More than 20 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits and a fresh wave of lay-offs is expected as governors impose business restrictions in a bid to tamp down spiraling infections.

Additional aid from Congress nowhere in sight.

US hospitalisations for COVID-19 reached a record of more than 89,000 on Wednesday and experts warn Thanksgiving could lead to a spike in cases and significantly boost a death toll that has exceeded 262,000.

Story continues

Despite advice from the Centers for Disease Control to stay home for the holiday, nearly 6 million Americans traveled by air from Friday to Wednesday, according to the US Transportation Security Administration, although it's less than half last year's figure.

Many Americans have not seen loved ones for months and see the annual get-together as important enough to outweigh the risks.

Nearly 40 per cent plan to attend a “risky gathering” during the holiday season, either in excess of 10 people or with people from outside their household.

A third will not require masks of their guests, according to a national survey by Ohio State University.

Many others have cancelled travel plans and will instead connect with loved ones over FaceTime or Zoom.

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