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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Tips for Thanksgiving Celebration in the Time of Pandemic

I attended the zoomed select board meeting last week, and I was happy to see Mary Springer was also in attendance. Up to that date, November 9, we’d seen the numbers of COVID-19 cases creeping up in the state, a creep that has become a jog. It comes at a terrible time. Not that there is ever a good time.

Mary reminded folks of the basics—and at the risk of sharpening your pandemic fatigue, I will, too—wash your hands, wear a mask, stay away from people if you are sick, practice social distancing.

While digging around to learn more about what's going on with the pandemic, I found something that drives home the point. You may recall that in Vermont's reopening process, the state created a map showing which counties were safe for people to travel from to Vermont and which counties Vermonters could travel to safely without needing to quarantine. This color-coded map with Vermont in the center was called the leisure travel map.

This map has been suspended. The implication is obvious. Leisure travel should be suspended, too.

Because the situation has worsened so quickly, there are more straightforward rules to follow now. If you travel out of state, you must self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Vermont. If you haven’t had any symptoms of COVID-19, a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative PCR test is signal enough to end your quarantine.

And, sadly, just in time for Thanksgiving, the governor has banned multi-family gatherings indoors and outdoors.

Can you make your Thanksgiving celebration a virtual gathering? Sure! You can video chat while you are eating, making for one huge holiday table. If that doesn't baste your bird, you can schedule time to say hi before or after the meal. While mashing potatoes, video chat with your next-door neighbor, your family in Ferrisburg, or your pals in Plymouth, whether that be Plymouth, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or even Virginia. If you’re making pies the day before, video in some folks to say hi, see how the pie baking is going, and wish a happy and healthy holiday.

If I were to video call with family or friends before the big day, I would certainly be doing something other than making pies. I am the worst pie maker ever. A profanity-laced tirade as my dough gets stuck to the surface I am rolling it on would make people thankful—perhaps for the first time—for a bad internet connection or a dropped call.

Thinking about this second or even third wave of COVID-19 and the family and friends we will not be seeing is emotionally taxing. Though we all made it through earlier waves of this pandemic, diving back into this situation isn’t any easier.

Some things have changed, though. The number of people infected daily is at all-time highs, both countrywide and in Vermont. However, the death rate, though horrible, seems lower than it did in the spring. Perhaps we’ve learned how to treat ill folks better. Perhaps people are seeking help earlier. Perhaps the pandemic is affecting people who do not have other health problems complicating the situation. Regardless, stay vigilant!

Mary offered some wise advice. When it comes to coping with stress, she suggested a good way to start is to get the facts from a reliable source, such as the Vermont Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Like you should limit your exposure to the virus and people who may be infected, you should also limit your exposure to unreliable sources like social media. This may help reduce fear or panic.

To ease loneliness, connect with others via a simple phone call, letter, or through the online video meeting platform of your choice.

Find time for yourself to practice meditation, yoga, and mindfulness exercises. Read a book or article that may lift your mood.

Maintain healthy routines such as going for a walk or working out. Though the season is marching towards winter, we have been lucky with the mild/warm temperatures lately.

Mary also reiterated that we must stay kind. And she is right. We are in this together. Everyone is doing the best they can. Support one another, particularly those people trying to maintain some type of normalcy in these abnormal times. Treat one another with the respect and dignity we all deserve. It is easy to vent frustrations, but during these trying times, it is counterproductive.

Of course, I am going to end by wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for your friends and family, video conferencing, and, most importantly, your health. And let’s be thankful for having Mary Springer as our Town Health Officer. A personal thank you for letting me borrow most of what is above (except for the poor attempts at humor and the pie confessional). As in the first wave, talking with her and reading her advice makes me feel better. I hope it does the same for you.

For the latest state guidelines on how to stay safe and about quarantining, visit

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on November 19, 2020.

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