COVID-19 pandemic promises modified Thanksgiving holiday celebrations in Memphis

Families set to celebrate Thanksgiving with safety measures in mind

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The countdown is on as Thanksgiving day is just hours away. But with COVID-19 cases surging both locally and nationally, holiday celebrations will look different this year.

“Of course we’re concerned. But we just had to take the right steps to protect ourselves and others,” said Jodie Watson.

Watson was up early to catch a flight out of Memphis International Airport on Wednesday. The airport said the Thanksgiving travel period will be its busiest since the pandemic hit in mid-March.

Still, passenger volume is expected to be down 50% from 2019.

The CDC has advised Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, but Watson said she can’t miss this trip.

Health officials warn of post-Thanksgiving surge

“We are going to see our son. He’s been in Kuwait for 11 months, so he’s stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. And we haven’t seen him in a year,” she said.

The city-county COVID-19 task force is urging Shelby Countians to celebrate Thanksgiving with only those who live in their household. They’re also advising residents to utilize masking and outdoor eating options.

“Limit your gatherings to very small groups. In my family, we’ll be wearing masks and gathering outside. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day on Thanksgiving,” said Doug McGowen, City of Memphis, Chief Operating Officer at the COVID-19 task force briefing on Tuesday.

That’s the plan for Anne Stubblefield who we found gathering last-minute groceries at the Kroger on Union Avenue.

“We have a side porch, a patio, and a dining room and a den. So we are just going to spread out and enjoy our meal,” she said.

Stephanie Jones said her extended family get-together was shelved this year in light of the pandemic.

“We are just going to keep it very small,” she said.

Jones said with vaccines in the pipeline, she’s counting her blessings and hoping 2021 brings the virus under control.

“We’ve made it this far. We’ve made it to the end of the year, so I’m very thankful because a lot of people didn’t make it this far. So we have to stay focused on that, rather than be discouraged. Just be positive and make the best of our situation,” she said.

Just in Shelby County, the health department is reporting 645 COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday. Current 14-day case averages show roughly 340 new cases daily. Public health officials say it’s that level of transmission that is behind their push for caution on the holiday.

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