Families’ opposing plans for Thanksgiving travel

Anna Czech ‘23, Anna Guylas ‘23, Copy editors

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, many families have to make the complicated and challenging decision of whether or not to face the health risks of visiting family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phoebe King ’23 said she usually visits her grandmother in Port Sanilac on Thanksgiving. However, they will not be able to do any of their usual traditions this year.

“(My family is) Lebanese, so we make baklava every year (for Thanksgiving),” Phoebe King said. “We won’t be able to do any of that or put up the Christmas tree at my grandma’s house this year– the little stuff that a lot of people do for the holidays.”

Phoebe King ’23 and Violet King make baklava, a Lebanese dessert, on Thanksgiving in 2016. Unfortunately, they will not be able to complete this tradition this year because of changed plans due to COVID-19.

According to Phoebe King, her family’s change of plans for Thanksgiving was required due to some people’s lack of consideration surrounding COVID-19. She said anyone has the ability to contract the virus, making it important to take appropriate safety measures.

“Even though (teenagers) are younger and (probably) won’t have many life-threatening symptoms, just giving somebody a hug could really screw things up,” Phoebe King said. “Six feet can make a difference.”

Keeping these rational decisions in mind, Phoebe King’s mother, Melissa King, said her family is working hard to give her two daughters time away from their screens to interact with people. However, Melissa King said the risk of spreading COVID-19 is too large to visit family for Thanksgiving, as her mother-in-law is immune-compromised.

“It’s frustrating because we don’t know (the consequences of) a lot of situations,” Melissa King said. “We want the kids to be able to experience high school fun things, but it is a risk. We look at the risk and try to balance it with how important the experience is.”

After working as a family to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and diligently following safety guidelines, Victoria Vorhees ’23 and her mother, Amy Vorhees, decided they will still travel for the holiday. Still keeping COVID-19 in mind, they said there will be restrictions placed on their usual family traditions as they go to Atlanta, GA to visit family.

“It will be nice to get a change of scenery and see (my extended family) because I haven’t seen them in a while,” Victoria Vorhees said. “However, I’m sure there are many things that will be affected that we have to adhere to, like going out to eat, we have to wear a mask and little things like that.”

Amy Vorhees said she limits herself to visiting and interacting with friends and other people. She is applying these same precautions to her Thanksgiving celebrations, making sure to social distance and follow important protocols to avoid getting herself or others sick.

“I don’t really interact with other people other than my family,” Amy Vorhees said. “When I’m out and about, I don’t really talk to other women or hang out with other people just for social reasons.”

Amy Vorhees also said that overall, her family’s mental health has been negatively impacted from the precautions that must be taken for COVID-19. However, she said they’re grateful for the opportunity they have to travel, while still remaining safe.

“I think mental health has been an issue for sure for all of (my kids),” Amy Vorhees said. “Even my oldest, living in a different state that’s very open—unlike Michigan—she worries a lot because the people where she lives don’t wear masks in restaurants. My other son is living at home because he can’t live in New York because of COVID. That’s huge, and he doesn’t want to be living here because he’s an adult.”

With this in mind, Silver Pine Medical Group family physician Dr. Tristan Guevara said the media can be misleading sometimes, not allowing the public access to certain statistics about COVID-19. He said these statistics may lead to people developing misconceptions about the pandemic, which are then being used to dictate their decisions on traveling for Thanksgiving.

“One thing that people need to understand is that while the cases are going up and hospitalizations are going up, the mortality is actually going down,” Guevara said. “People get sick with (COVID-19) who are asymptomatic. The mortality rate has gone down in the one percent range.”

Nevertheless, Guevara said he still recognizes the value of professionally-recommended safety precautions. He suggests families make informed, yet reasonable, decisions about Thanksgiving plans for their own and others’ well-being, regardless of if traveling is involved.

“We pray that families are being wise about not getting together with too many people and trying to be socially distant the best they can,” Guevara said. “But it’s impossible not to keep families together. I think it’s super important that we celebrate these things, but we try to minimize our risk.”