“If you’re vaccinated — and hopefully you’ll be boosted too — and your family is, you can enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal, Thanksgiving holiday with your family.”
— Dr. Anthony Fauci, on ABC News’ “This Week” Sunday
If ever Americans needed something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it is the opportunity — for most of us — to be able to gather with friends and family without fearing for our health.
We have come a long way from Thanksgiving 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions kept most of us at home and isolated. There were no stories swapped while passing the stuffing, no stolen second pieces of pie, no grandparents spoiling their grandchildren.
Most of our cherished traditions were put on hold. There was no Gloucester-Danvers football game, no Newburyport-Amesbury, no Lawrence vs. Central Catholic. The two major local road races, the Feaster Five in Andover and the Wild Turkey in Salem, which together draw close to 15,000 runners, were virtual-only affairs. Holiday parades from Gloucester to Beverly and beyond were canceled.
This year, however, we can be thankful for science.
Gov. Charlie Baker said as much Monday.
“People have worked really hard over the past year to get vaccinated here in Massachusetts, to help reopen the economy, to be able to be in a position where we can have a normal Thanksgiving,” he said. “Football games are happening on Thanksgiving morning. They don’t matter anymore in the league standings, which makes guys like me a little bit unhappy. But the bottom line is it’s still a big opportunity for us to get back to what I would describe as something that will feel a lot more like a traditional holiday.”
This morning the Beverly Panthers and Salem Witches will square off on the gridiron for the 122nd time, with hundreds of spectators in the stands. Thousands more will toe the line for road races from Andover to Salem and beyond. And even more will simply be on the road or in the air, traveling to visit family for the first full-on holiday celebration in several months.
Indeed, AAA estimates this Thanksgiving weekend will herald the return of traffic numbers not seen in a couple years, with an estimate 1.5 million Massachusetts residents expected to be traveling for the holiday.
“There’s definitely going to be a lot more travel than last year and the reason is mainly that people are more comfortable with the idea of traveling than they were last year,” Mark Schieldrop, spokesperson for AAA Northeast, told reporter Heather Alterisio.
Schieldrop said the reason people are more comfortable traveling this year is simple — vaccinations. Vaccinated families feel safe gathering, and the statistics back them up.
As of this week, 71% of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated; 84% percent have received at least one dose of the three available coronavirus vaccines, and more than 900,000 Bay Staters have already had a booster shot.
It is nothing short of amazing that researchers were able to develop a safe, effective vaccine in less than a year, and that the federal government, the health care system and private businesses were able to distribute it to practically anyone who wanted it, free of charge. By contrast, the miracle of the moon landing took more than a decade to accomplish.
To be sure, we are not yet clear of the pandemic. COVID-19 cases have risen 59% across New England in the past two weeks, leading Gov. Charlie Baker to order that hospitals delay some non-emergency medical procedures in case resources are needed to handle another surge.
While vaccinated individuals have also contracted the virus, much of the surge can be tied to those who are unvaccinated and spread COVID-19 to their friends and neighbors.
Just this week, the American Medical Association, in a court filing in support of President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate, once again said the vaccines are safe. Saying it is committed to “providing evidence-based guidance on public health issues,” the organization added “immediate, widespread vaccination against COVID-19 is the surest way to protect the U.S. workforce and the public and to end this costly pandemic.”
We are closer to the end of the pandemic today than we were at this time last year because of the development of these vaccines. That is truly something for which to be thankful. Here’s hoping those thus far reluctant to be vaccinated take a cue from the holidays and get the shot to protect their loved ones.