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Life in the Time of COVID-19: Thanksgiving 2020


The U.S. recently reached an alarming milestone: it is now the first nation in the world since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to exceed 10 million Coronavirus infections. Although progress has been made in developing a vaccine to protect against the virus, it will likely be months before the vaccine can be widely distributed. In the meantime, most of the United States continues to experience a surge in COVID-19 cases. Health officials are concerned that this surge, combined with the Thanksgiving holiday, the start of the influenza season, and the upcoming colder weather in many states, may cause even more upticks in COVID-19 cases. 

Thanksgiving is typically a major holiday for many in the United States, with friends and relatives from all over the country getting together to celebrate in person and often traveling long distances to do so. However, 2020 is far from being a “normal” year, and it is likely that this Thanksgiving will be anything but typical.

IntelliSurvey’s most recent “Life in the Time of COVID-19” survey, fielded on November 5-6, 2020 among 1036 adults in the U.S., queried respondents on last year’s Thanksgiving, as well as their plans for this year. 

The Pandemic’s Impact on Turkey Day plans

As shown in the following chart, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely influenced Americans’ plans for Thanksgiving. Eighty-five percent (85%) indicate that the pandemic has had an influence on their Thanksgiving plans this year, with 40% citing it as a strong influence, 30% as a moderate influence, and  15% citing it as a slight influence.

COVID-19: Influence on this year's Thanksgiving plans

How, specifically, will the pandemic influence plans? As shown below, particularly with regard to in-person events, Americans intend to celebrate very differently in 2020 compared to 2019. Last year, nearly half (45%) of those surveyed indicated that they celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and family in their homes; this year, only 38% intend to celebrate in this way. Other in-person plans, such as Black Friday shopping, and attending football games or parades, are also lower this year than last year. Travel plans are, not surprisingly, also being impacted by the pandemic, with fewer intending to fly, drive, or take public transportation, either in-state or out-of-state.

On the flip side, the percent of respondents who intend to celebrate virtually with friends and family has doubled from last year (18% vs. 9%), while more people (12%) indicate that they don’t plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year at all, up from 9% who didn’t celebrate last year.

COVID-19: Thanksgiving celebrations activities

How many will be gathered around the table this year?

As displayed below, Americans intend to have smaller gatherings at Thanksgiving this year. Twenty percent (20%) report that they celebrated with fewer than 5 people in 2019; this year, the percentage planning on small celebrations has jumped to nearly 30%. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72%) intend to celebrate the holiday with fewer than 10 people this year, while the number of those planning on larger gatherings has decreased versus last year.

COVID-19: Number of People Celebrating Thanksgiving Together

A Pandemic “perfect storm”

As mentioned, U.S. health officials are concerned about the “perfect storm” that could be coming our way. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases, combined with the Thanksgiving holiday, the start of the influenza season, and more people staying indoors in the colder weather, are all likely to cause a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials aren’t the only ones who are concerned. As shown below, when asked how concerned they are about this “perfect storm,” 43% of survey respondents indicate that they are extremely concerned, and 35% are somewhat concerned, for a total of 78% expressing concern. Only 12% are not concerned (either somewhat unconcerned or not at all concerned), and 10% don’t appear to have an opinion one way or another.

COVID-19: Concern about uptick in cases in the fall

Giving thanks in trying times

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to give thanks. This year, with so much turmoil in the U.S. and so many people who have died from COVID-19 (as of this writing, the number is 242,216 in the U.S.), it can be challenging to find things for which to give thanks. However, when we asked respondents what, if anything, is the one thing they are most thankful for this year, we were happy to see that gratitude is still alive and well in the U.S. Nearly one-third (30%) of the 663 people who answered this optional question indicated that they are thankful for their friends, family, or loved ones, followed closely by 25% indicating that they are thankful for their own or their family/friends’ health.  For 10% of those who answered the question, just being alive is the thing for which they are most thankful.

To end on a positive note, here is a small sample of some of the responses we received:

“Every year the thing I am most thankful for is my family and their good health.  Nothing else matters.”

“For my new son — we weren’t supposed to have any more kids — he turns one the week before Thanksgiving”

“Friends who still care after years and distance have separated us”

“I’m thankful for being alive and thankful for my family. This  year has beaten me down but I have to remember those important things.”

I am thankful to still be healthy, alive, in my right mind, and to be surrounded by love.”

“I am thankful for friends and family, a roof over my head, shoes on my feet, clothes on my back and food in my belly. I am truly blessed. I may not have everything I want but I am blessed with everything I need.”

To see more information on the CDC’s recommendations regarding Thanksgiving, please click here .

IntelliSurvey wishes you and yours a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Respondents for this survey were collected via Lucid Marketplace.

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