One-third of parents say family gatherings for Thanksgiving is worth risk of contracting COVID-19

One in three parents believe the benefits of gathering family for Thanksgiving is worth the risk of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, a new poll finds.

This is in spite of three-quarters of parents saying they typically have extended family members at their holiday dinners and 90 percent who said grandparents – who are at high risk of severe disease and death  – also in attendance.  

The team, from CS Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says the findings show that some parents’ unwillingness to forego holiday traditions during the pandemic could lead to an outbreak.

It comes less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘strongly’ advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving or to spend the holiday with people from outside their household. 

A new poll from CS Mott Children's Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that 35% of parents believed a large family gathering for Thanksgiving was worth the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus (file image)

A new poll from CS Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that 35% of parents believed a large family gathering for Thanksgiving was worth the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus (file image)

‘Our report suggests that while many children have spent less time with relatives during the pandemic, some parents may have a hard time foregoing holiday gatherings in order to reduce COVID-19 risks,’ said Sarah Clark, co-director of the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, in a statement, according to CNN.

‘We all know that large public gatherings carry great risks of spreading COVID-19. But small and casual social gatherings where people feel most “safe” are also part of what has been fueling transmission.’

For the report, the team conducted a survey in August 2020 via Ipsos Public Affairs, a market research and polling firm.

Nearly 1,500 adults, who had at least one child between ages 0 and 12 living at home, were randomly selected.

They were asked questions about which family members usually attend Thanksgiving gatherings, the importance of certain milestones and any measures they were taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Overall, 53 percent said it is ‘very’ important their child sees extended family and 58 percent said it is ‘very’ important to share in family holiday traditions.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of parents, 35 percent, said they felt the benefits of gathering with family at Thanksgiving are worth the risk of spreading or getting COVID-19. 

Results also showed that many parents are taking precautions and steps to limit the risk of spread during family celebrations.

Only 18 percent of parents who were surveyed said they planned to involve people who were traveling from out of state.

Nine in 10 parents say they will ask family members to not attend a Thanksgiving gathering if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. 

Three-quarters say they will try to limit contact between their child and high-risk guests such as elderly people or those with underlying conditions. 

More than two-thirds plan to ask guests to maintain social distancing as much as possible.  

However, the authors say it may be difficult for younger children to follow such directions.

‘In this unique situation, children may be better served if parents are thoughtful about how to preserve family traditions without an in-person gathering,’ the researchers wrote in the report. 

‘If children favor an aunt’s pumpkin pie, parents can have children try their hand at making it, with age-appropriate assistance. Phone or video calls with grandparents and other family members can help the include them in the process. 

‘The key for parents is to focus on elements of the celebration that represent family traditions or that seem most important to children.’

For those that choose to celebrate with extended family, the team recommends that as much as time as possible be spent outdoors.

Additionally, they suggest parents talk to children about limiting singing or yelling because both actions can more easily spread viruses.

The CDC has also issued recommendations of its own, advising against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for the virus. 

‘From an individual household level, what’s at stake is basically increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then hospitalized and dying,’ Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, said during a briefing on Thursday. 

‘We certainly don’t want to see that happen. These times are tough. It’s been a long outbreak.’