How many guests are invited to your Thanksgiving table? And how many people will end up being left out? Per Governor Andrew Cuomo, for those living in NY State, ten is the allowable limit of family and friends who may gather in private homes to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020. Cuomo’s prohibition, designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, brings about a debate. Do politicians have the authority to enforce the number of people who may come into your private home for the holidays? Is it fair or has Cuomo overstepped his bounds?
As the holiday season draws near, and with cases of COVID-19 increasing in many places, fears over large gatherings are mounting. However, shouldn’t it be up to individual households, rather than the government, to decide what’s best? Governor Cuomo is facing tough criticism for not only encouraging people to stay at home rather than visit with family, but for placing tight restrictions on the number of guests at private home holiday tables. People are wondering if this is even enforceable. Will they use law enforcement to go after people who are passing the gravy around if the gathering is above the limit?
Last November, as families and friends prepared to gather around their holiday tables, the focus in many homes was the creation of a grand, sharable feast to include a turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and more. This year, because of the ongoing pandemic, the state governments are setting rules that apply to your dinner table, to discourage Americans from holding traditional family gatherings that might spread the virus. In other words, the states and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) want us to alter our behavior on November 26.
Many states have established new virus guidelines to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The CDC explains that small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise of coronavirus cases. Furthermore, they want you to know that their suggestions are meant to supplement, not replace, any state, local, territorial or tribe regulations, with which people must comply. Interestingly, the states and CDC do not interfere with or place tight restrictions on mass gathering protests that are known to spread COVID-19.
In America, the Thanksgiving Holiday is typically the busiest travel time of the year. People are excited to spend quality time with family and friends. However, this year, travel is discouraged from state-to-state as being in airports, train or bus stations, or automobile rest stops can expose people to the virus via air droplets or contaminated surfaces. Additionally, sitting in close quarters to a person infected with the virus can greatly spread COVID-19. Thus, for safety, states have implemented their own travel guidelines.
In New York, for example, a COVID-19 travel advisory has been issued. For any traveler coming to NY from a noncontiguous state, must “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. For travelers who have been out of the state for more than 24-hours, they must obtain a test within three days of departure prior to arrival in NY. Upon arrival, they must quarantine for three days, and on day four of the quarantine obtain another COVID test. When both tests are negative, the traveler may exit quarantine. State protocols are evolving due to the impact of COVID-19.
In addition to travel quarantines, states are establishing rules for Thanksgiving. For example, Californians are being ordered to hold Thanksgiving dinner outside, for no longer than two hours, people must remain six feet apart, and the host must collect the names of the attendees. Furthermore, no more than three households can attend. A main issue with family gatherings is that individuals may have failed to follow exposure reduction practices prior to getting together. For example, if they didn’t socially distance or wear masks around others, they could unknowingly be infected and spread the virus. Another point to consider, people tend to let their guards down during home gatherings. They may not wear masks or stay six feet apart (two arms lengths) or they may touch surfaces without adequately cleansing their hands. These negative practices can be exacerbated with alcohol or drug use, whereby people may be less careful.
Despite those reasons, many people object to the nanny sate mentality, whereby the government interferes unduly with personal choice. Placing tighter restrictions on you and your families during COVID-19 can lead to increased isolation, loneliness, depression, suicide and more. Government dominance of personal affairs is widely viewed as an infringement of our individual rights and liberties. Enforcement of mandates, whether on the federal or state level, requires cooperation, time, money, and energy. With escalating crime in cities across America, one must ask, should resources be used to go after people who are privately getting together to eat turkey?
Let’s say you live in a state with tight restrictions. What happens if your nosey neighbor calls the police on you to report seeing more than 10 people going into your home? Will law enforcement stop at your house if they spot a larger than normal number of cars parked on or near your driveway? Will local authorities ring your doorbell because they hear music playing and suspect a gathering? Or, if you have 11 in attendance at your Thanksgiving dinner, can you be fined or worse yet, jailed?
A lot of folks, such as Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, believe that it is up to individuals to know the risks associated with family gatherings and COVID-19 and make their own decisions. The sheriff shares, “I have no plans to utilize my office’s resources or Deputies to break up the greater tradition of Thanksgiving dinner. The national holiday has created longstanding family traditions that are at the heart of America, and these traditions should not be stopped or interrupted by Governor Cuomo’s mandates. My office will respect the sanctity of your home and traditions, and I encourage you to follow your heart and act responsibly, as well as do what’s best for your family.”
What do you think???