Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Tips for a successful Thanksgiving.,


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

ImageDaily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.
Daily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.Credit…The New York Times

All adults in the U.S. who received two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines at least six months ago are now eligible for a booster shot.

In a widely expected move, the F.D.A. authorized the boosters Friday morning. Hours later, the C.D.C. followed suit.

The moves simplify eligibility, fulfill a pledge by President Biden to offer the shots to every American adult and formalize what is already happening in at least 10 states.

But many experts are skeptical that boosters can turn the tide on coronavirus cases, in part because the shots aren’t getting to the vulnerable people who need them most. More than 85 percent of the adult population is already eligible for an extra dose, but only about 17 percent has chosen to get one.

Coronavirus infections are inching up again, particularly in colder parts of the country. Roughly 100 million Americans have yet to receive a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine. And holiday travel — which officials expect to approach 2019 levels — could send cases skyrocketing, as it did last year.

Still, most public health experts agree that it’s OK to make Thanksgiving and other holiday plans with your favorite people, as long as you’re taking precautions. It’s important to celebrate with the people we love.

“Holidays are so important; they have meaning,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told my colleague Tara Parker-Pope. “People have been isolated and fearful for almost two years.”

To help you make your decision on holiday gatherings, check out this quiz, which Tara created to help families celebrate safely.

“This is a judgment-free guide to help you lower risk and worry less, no matter what situation you find yourself in,” Tara wrote in the Well newsletter.

Whether you’re traveling or staying put, hosting a big dinner or heading to a cousin’s house, there are ways to lower risk. Here are a few tips:

  • If your family is fully vaccinated, Tara writes, Happy Vaxgiving! You’re well protected with vaccines and boosters.

  • If you’re all fully vaccinated but celebrating with someone at high risk, Happy Vaxgiving! But maybe also consider traveling to your high-risk friends and relatives to minimize their risk. Always try to plan around the most vulnerable person.

  • If the adults are fully vaccinated but the kids are not, Happy Vaxgiving! The risk goes down greatly when all eligible adults and teenagers are vaccinated. Partially vaccinated children will have some protection, and younger kids are largely protected if they’re surrounded by vaccinated people.

  • If not all adults are fully vaccinated, you may be dealing with some difficult conversations this year. There are still ways to enjoy Thanksgiving, especially if you take precautions. If you decide to celebrate together, focus on agreeing to safety and mitigation strategies instead of arguing about vaccines.

For all families, here are more suggestions and precautions for the holiday:

  • If you’re traveling, upgrade to a protective mask, like a KN-95, to keep germs at bay.

  • On-the-spot rapid tests are easy to get and pretty reliable, and they can alleviate tension and worry.

  • Improve ventilation with fans and open windows. Or, if the weather is warm enough, consider an outdoor gathering.

  • Check case rates in your area. If hospitals are filling up and Covid is surging, maybe change your gathering spot to a lower-risk part of the country.

  • Anyone with the sniffles or a cough should stay home.

In Opinion: Emily Esfahani Smith, a doctoral student in clinical psychology, offered reflections on hard conversations. “It’s possible to navigate this year’s unique holiday conflicts gracefully,” she argues. “Doing so requires understanding what’s really driving family tension this year, both political and personal.”

More than 100 people wrote in to share their plans, excitements and strategies for the holiday. Here are a few ways you’re all celebrating this year:

Barbara Sloan, who lives in Conway, S.C., will be dining with her brother and his wife. “This is better than last year, when I spent every holiday alone at home, as did everyone else,” Barbara wrote. “It’s not the food, but the company that matters. As we get older, it feels more important to see each other more often.”

“This year, my husband and I dropped a truth bomb that we weren’t attending any Thanksgiving activities with unvaccinated people,” Ethan Zachery Scott, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote. “That quickly alienated us from almost every family event. Instead, we’re spending the day with close friends and going to see ‘House of Gucci.’ Honestly, this is probably the best outcome I could have asked for!”

Aniyah Zachery, 13, lives in San Francisco. “With everything that’s been going on these past years, I haven’t gotten to see my family a lot,” Aniyah wrote. “This year, family members of mine with the vaccination will be able to attend our Covid-safe dinner.” Aniyah added: “Not only will I be able to reunite with my family, but I will also be able to fill it with love, joy and laughter.”

Not all the kids in Gwen K.‘s family are old enough to be vaccinated, and some have not yet received both doses. “So this year, after our annual Thanksgiving football game with friends, our family is gathering at noon (hopefully the warmest part of the day) outdoors for a modified meal,” wrote Gwen, who lives in Haverford, Pa. “We are serving turkey sandwiches.”

This year, Cathy, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., plans to have a meal, maybe with some at-home Covid tests as an appetizer. “I’m not even asking who is vaccinated,” wrote Cathy, who is fully vaccinated and got a booster. “I figure everyone who wants the shot has gotten it, and each can make their own decisions about risks of gathering.”

“Last year I got Mexican takeout and watched the sunset from beach chairs on the beach in San Diego with a friend,” Sarah Mearon wrote. “The rolled tacos were great, but I’m looking forward to a hone-cooked meal this year.”

Christine Owens, a teacher who lives in St. Johnsbury, Vt., is on the fence about whether to fly down to Virginia to see her brother and his family. “Should I risk the health of my family to travel for a meal with 15-plus family and friends from all over the country?” Christine wondered. “I asked my brother if he was asking guests about vaccines or getting tested before traveling. He thought that was ridiculous. I’m starting to get more anxious than excited about the trip and I don’t know what to do.”

Pat Miller, who lives in New Jersey, is planning for a big celebration again. “After being by ourselves last year, my husband and I will now be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with our children and grandchildren, due to vaccinations and at-home rapid tests,” Pat wrote. “That’s a lot to be thankful for.”

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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