HOPE FOR A NORMAL HOLIDAY
After 20 tumultuous months, Americans hope their second Thanksgiving since the pandemic outbreak in the country could become a normal one.
Cassie Barton, an accountant in her 60s in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, locked herself in the house last Thanksgiving. She celebrated the holiday with a video chat with her daughter and two grandchildren as COVID-19 has been spreading around the world at a rapid clip.
Now that she and everyone she knows have been vaccinated, she plans to attend a large family get-together on Thanksgiving this year.
Erica Wood, a manager in her 40s at a mid-size company outside Washington, D.C., is having a few friends over this Thanksgiving. "It's different this year," she said.
According to a recent poll from Monmouth University, two-thirds of Americans said this year's Thanksgiving gatherings will look like those before the pandemic.
Sixty-three percent said they will celebrate the holiday with the same number of people they did in pre-pandemic days, and 5 percent said there will be even more people coming to their Thanksgivings this year than before the virus outbreak.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, only 46 percent said their Thanksgiving would include the same number of people as in pre-pandemic days, the poll found.
The Transportation Security Administration is expected to screen nearly as many people this week as it did during the same period in 2019.
COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION REMAINS HIGH
Yet, many U.S. public health officials and experts share the Denver mayor's concern about another possible winter COVID-19 surge partially fueled by indoor holiday gatherings as the level of community transmission in most of the country remains high.
The latest seven-day average of cases is 92,800 per day, an 18-percent surge from last week, and hospitalization rates have increased 6 percent with a daily average of 5,600, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
"The big difference between now and our conversation one year ago is what you yourself mentioned, and that is the vaccines. That's the really good news," said U.S. top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci in an interview with The New York Times.
It is unambiguous that someone who is vaccinated has a much higher likelihood of being protected against infection, hospitalization and death compared to a very vulnerable, unvaccinated person, he said, adding the "sobering news" is that over time, usually measured in several months, immunity wanes.
"We have vaccinations. We have people who don't want to get vaccinated, which is really very unfortunate," Fauci told MSNBC on Tuesday.
The unvaccinated continue to drive the pandemic in the United States, Walensky said. About 47 million eligible American adults and 12 million eligible teens are still not vaccinated.
According to the most up-to-date information on the CDC data tracker, unvaccinated people are six times more likely to test positive for the virus, nine times more likely to be hospitalized, and 14 times more likely to die.
"There is concern that the rate of infection spreading is already so high as we head into the holiday season," said Amber D'Souza, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told U.S. news portal The Hill in an interview. "We're definitely headed into our next surge."
According to a tally from John Hopkins University, as of Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 was 775,369, meaning that deaths registered in 2021 surpassed the 385,000-odd COVID-19 deaths recorded in 2020.