STATEN ISLAND, NY – Previously the main things we talked about on Thanksgiving were which family member would host dinner and what sides or desserts each would bring.
But now there is a new question for the guests: are you vaccinated?
As if Americans had nothing to argue about around the holiday table.
As families gather for Thanksgiving, unvaccinated loved ones may not be welcome at the meal. Or the unvaccinated may be advised that they must present a negative COVID test in order to attend.
And there could be a good reason. There may be elderly family members present who are at greater risk of contracting the virus. Others at dinner might have health issues that make them more vulnerable.
These conversations can take place in different ways in different families.
Of course, vaccinees can still contract COVID and spread the virus. They might not even know they are sick. A vaccination card therefore does not guarantee anything.
For other hosts, even a negative test may not be enough. They could demand that all their guests be vaccinated. Forget about a negative test. Forget about your positive antibody results. Just take the jab and you can sit at my table. Or you can sit outside on the deck with the dog, if you wish.
Some of those unvaccinated people may decide to pass Thanksgiving with family this year and will look forward to the day when they can reunite with loved ones again without jumping through COVID hoops.
It has consequences on both sides of the vaccine fight.
Those who are not vaccinated may not be able to reunite with their loved ones. But these relatives may also be deprived of the company of certain family members and friends.
And some of those unvaccinated people may have partners or spouses who are vaccinated, putting those partners in the position of supporting their unvaccinated loved one or going to the family dinner or holiday party without them. Children can be caught in the crossfire.
And this vaccine battle has become a bubbling catch-all for everything we love to discuss in this country: politics. Religion. Individual liberty. Forget about setting a timer for the turkey. Set a timer to see how long it takes someone to mention Donald Trump or Dr.Anthony Fauci at dinner.
Grudges could continue long after the holidays and even after the pandemic:
You didn’t want my company back then, you can’t have it now.
You did not respect the vaccine mandate, I can no longer respect you.
Still, we have things to be thankful for this year.
COVID-19-related infections, hospitalizations and deaths have not reached the record levels they reached during the worst days of the pandemic. And I hope the numbers don’t reach those levels, given the availability of vaccines, treatments, and the fact that people recovered from COVID can count on at least some antibody protection.
Of course, the effectiveness of the vaccine wanes. The same is true of natural immunity, ultimately. But we are not confined. The shops are open. Fans are again allowed to attend sporting events.
The White House said the other day that it was unlikely the country would be confined again or the economy would be shut down again.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said vaccination warrants for domestic flights would likely be unnecessary as masking and other measures do the trick.
Yes, gas prices are too high. And we pay too much for food at the supermarket. Heating costs are increasing. People in Washington, starting with President Joe Biden, are going to have to start to understand this stuff.
But let’s try to be thankful today. Things have been worse.