Listen: How to Cancel Thanksgiving

Hamblin: Yeah. Don’t do it.

Wells: Here’s another scenario. This is a tough one. A listener wants to visit her 91-year-old mother. It’s not an emergency, but her cognition is declining. If she quarantines and travels by plane wearing a mask, can she see her mother?

Hamblin: This is the one big caveat to Thanksgiving gatherings: people with terminally ill relatives. You might not see them again. Honoring people’s wishes if they want to see you and they don’t care if you infect them, and they are homebound, not seeing other people, that’s a situation where I think the right thing to do is honor their wishes and go see them. If you can do that safely. It doesn’t mean bringing your whole family together to see them simultaneously. But if it’s a one-on-one situation with a family bubble going to see an elderly relative who desperately wants to see them, that’s something that I wouldn’t categorically say we should not do.

And that’s what makes it so hard to say simply: Don’t go at all. But that’s a different situation than just having Thanksgiving in May. Postpone it and do it outside. Everything will be pretty similar then, except we can actually enjoy it.

Wells: Okay, we’ve also gotten some plane questions. If you’re going to break this recommendation because you have some extenuating circumstances and [have to] travel, how are people supposed to think about travel by plane versus car versus train?

Hamblin: Planes are not what I’m worried about. We are not seeing significant transmission on planes. Planes have good ventilation. They have good airflow and filters. People mostly wear masks. You pretty much kind of sit quietly not facing other people. You’re not having loud, boisterous conversations and you’re not eating. That’s a much safer scenario than a prolonged period of having a loud conversation, eating with a big group. It’s really about once you arrive.

Wells: So it’s not getting to Thanksgiving that is the riskiest, necessarily; it’s Thanksgiving?

Hamblin: Yeah, that’s the unfortunate thing. On other forms of travel: riding in a car with strangers is not a good situation. Taking a ride-share or a taxi to an airport is not a good situation.

Wells: A car alone or with people in your household, not a problem. Train: bad?

Hamblin: I don’t know how they’re doing trains right now, but I believe trains have ventilation systems that are similar to subways and planes and are generally pretty safe. And once again, most people on the train are sitting quietly, keeping to themselves.

Wells: But again, don’t do it.

Hamblin: People will have a need to travel occasionally, so we’re just being pragmatic, but yeah, elective travel right now is not a good idea. This is the worst of the pandemic.

Wells: So to reiterate, don’t go to Thanksgiving. Just don’t do it. Okay, one last question; this one is from Kevin Townsend, producer of the show.

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