One-third of parents say family gatherings for Thanksgiving is worth risk of contracting COVID-19

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Nearly 70 percent of senors will travel to see their grandchildren and family on Thanksgiving while one in three parents believe the benefits of gathering for the holiday is worth the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus, polls show.

The two reports show that a combination of loneliness and unwillingness to forego holiday traditions during the pandemic could lead to several small outbreaks across the country.

In the parents survey, three-quarters said they typically have extended family members at their holiday dinners and 90 percent who said grandparents – who are at high risk of severe disease and death  – also in attendance.   

And in the seniors survey In addition, nearly 28 percent said they will be at an in-person dinner without any measures, such as wearing a mask or social distancing.

It comes less than a week ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘strongly’ advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving or to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.  

A new poll from CS Mott Children's Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that 35% of parents believed a large family gathering for Thanksgiving was worth the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus (file image)

A new poll from CS Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that 35% of parents believed a large family gathering for Thanksgiving was worth the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus (file image)

‘What we can draw from the findings is that parents don’t take lightly of foregoing those family traditions, especially in a time when we feel we’ve been doing this Covid thing for a long time,’ Sarah Clark, co-director of the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, told  

‘Our…poll showed clearly that a lot of parents are weighing continuing these family traditions, sustaining that part of their lives and being safe.’ 

For the first report from CS Mott Children’s Hospital, the team conducted a survey in August 2020 via Ipsos Public Affairs, a market research and polling firm.

Nearly 1,500 adults, who had at least one child between ages 0 and 12 living at home, were randomly selected.

They were asked questions about which family members usually attend Thanksgiving gatherings, the importance of certain milestones and any measures they were taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Overall, 53 percent said it is ‘very’ important their child sees extended family and 58 percent said it is ‘very’ important to share in family holiday traditions.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of parents, 35 percent, said they felt the benefits of gathering with family at Thanksgiving are worth the risk of spreading or getting COVID-19. 

Results also showed that many parents are taking precautions and steps to limit the risk of spread during family celebrations.

Only 18 percent of parents who were surveyed said they planned to involve people who were traveling from out of state.

Nine in 10 parents say they will ask family members to not attend a Thanksgiving gathering if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. 

Three-quarters say they will try to limit contact between their child and high-risk guests such as elderly people or those with underlying conditions. 

More than two-thirds plan to ask guests to maintain social distancing as much as possible.  

However, the authors say it may be difficult for younger children to follow such directions.

For the second report, from, the team used polling tool MTurk to survey 951 respondents, including 275 grandparents aged 45 or older. 

They found that nearly 70 percent of seniors will travel on Thanksgiving in order to see their grandchildren and family.

About 37 percent said they are meeting with some restrictions in place and 28 percent said they will be no measures, including masks or staying six feet apart.

Only one-quarter of grandparents said they will not see their grandchildren at all this holiday season because of the pandemic. 

‘As the 2020 holiday season approaches, a large number of grandparents who long to spend time in the presence of their grandchildren may put themselves at risk of viral infection,’ the authors wrote.

‘Increased efforts on the part of grandchildren to communicate with their grandparents, virtually or over the phone, could potentially result in less of a need for in-person family gatherings.’ 

Clark said there are ways to make a Zoom Thanksgiving feel special by speaking with kids about what they remember from prior Thanksgivings.  

‘Use technology, you might be on a video call as everyone makes the mashed potatoes or call at a special time and do blessing, or have everyone say what they’r thankful for,’ she said. 

For those that choose to celebrate with extended family, the team recommends that as much as time as possible be spent outdoors.

Additionally, they suggest parents talk to children about limiting singing or yelling because both actions can more easily spread viruses. 

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