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Thanksgiving, with a side of COVID uncertainty

Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Parenting News

PITTSBURGH — Last Thanksgiving, Bev Gunnarsson and her husband followed public health recommendations and stayed home in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, for Thanksgiving rather than traveling to the New York area to visit their daughters.

For just the two of them, the couple cooked a 10-pound turkey — the smallest they could find. "We had so many leftovers it was crazy," Gunnarsson said.

For Gunnarsson, this year will be a return to normal. She and her husband will travel to their daughter's home in New Jersey and spend Thanksgiving with their two children and three grandchildren, just like old times.

"With COVID last year, we couldn't all be together," Gunnarsson said. "The vaccines were really a game-changer."

But for many other Pittsburghers, this Thanksgiving is still complicated. While some families are ready to gather together, others are still cautious or dealing with fault lines that have emerged over vaccines or politics.

For Lynne Smith, of North Fayette, Thanksgiving last year was just her and her husband. This year, it will expand to include some family — but not as much as in the past. Since the start of COVID, Ms. Smith was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, and even though she is vaccinated, her body isn't effectively producing COVID antibodies.


So just her sister, brother-in-law and nephew will be joining them for dinner. "Their family has been as cautious as we have been," she said. "They both work from home; they're both vaccinated. They pick up their groceries and ours are delivered, but they are parallel, doing the same thing."

Her brother-in-law is bringing his grandma's sweet potato casserole, which she greatly missed last year.

But other family members who aren't vaccinated or take more risks will not be coming. "I get that everyone has a choice and people don't want to be told what to do," she said, "but I wish people would just start respecting each other enough to go get a vaccine."

If everyone is vaccinated and relatively healthy, Thanksgiving this year can proceed pretty much as normal, said Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher, a family physician and vice chair of the Family Care Institute at Allegheny Health Network.


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