How Will NC and Phase 3 Navigate COVID-19 This Thanksgiving?

How Will NC and Phase 3 Navigate COVID-19 This Thanksgiving?

We’re about a week away from Thanksgiving, and if any country needs a break from itself, it’s the U.S. In NC, Thanksgiving this year has two clouds hanging over it: the United States is somehow still involved in the tensest election cycle in recent history, and the number of COVID-19 cases is rising instead of falling.

So let’s look at North Carolina’s COVID-19 numbers leading up to Thanksgiving, how our Phase 3 extension applies to the holiday and what you can expect for travel.

How are NC’s COVID-19 numbers?

The plain answer: not good.

The seven-day rolling average and the number of hospitalizations are trending upward, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. The agency reported that there were 3,288 Covid-19 cases statewide on Tuesday and 1,424 hospitalizations statewide on Monday.

The DHHS dashboard showed Tuesday that 20 counties across the state have recorded more than 500 cases over the previous two weeks. Mecklenburg and Wake counties — the two most-populous counties in the state — both had more than 3,000 cases reported during that time.

How NC and Phase 3’s Extension Will Manage Thanksgiving Despite COVID-19

Phase 3 in North Carolina will extend through Dec. 4, Gov. Roy Cooper announced back on Oct. 21. Leaving Phase 3 in place affects the holiday in two ways — one on the night before the holiday and one on the holiday itself.

Regarding the holiday itself: indoor social gatherings of up to 25 people previously were allowed under Phase 3. One provision in the extension dropped that number to 10 people.

“The science shows that the transmission of this virus is much greater indoors,” Cooper said in this story from The News & Observer. “And the more people who are gathered, the easier this virus can spread. We saw increasing spread from social gatherings in October.”

That indoor limit has multiple exceptions, including families of 10 or more that reside together and a variety of religious and spiritual services.

But there’s some better NC Thanksgiving news for residents, despite COVID-19.

Image courtesy of krakenimages on Unsplash.

Regarding the night before the holiday: it’ll remain one of the best nights for heading to a local watering hole with hometown friends you haven’t seen in a year — if not much longer.

Under Phase 3, bars in North Carolina could open outdoor seating at a limited capacity. Indoor seating at bars remained closed. The same limit remains in place, but you and your guests could have the chance for a swaddled outdoor drink.

Changes to Thanksgiving plans

The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted a 9.7% drop nationwide in the number of travelers for next week’s holiday. This year could see the largest one-year drop in Thanksgiving travel since 2008.

Last year, AAA estimated 49.9 million Americans traveled by car to their Thanksgiving destination. That number is expected to be 47.8 million this year, a 4.3% decline.

Air travel will take a harder hit. Last year, AAA estimated 4.58 million Americans traveled on planes. That number is expected to be only 2.4 million this year, a 47.5% decline.

The organization said the number of travelers could drop even more due to restrictions and concerns surrounding COVID-19. 

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a press release.

Image courtesy of Element5 Digital from Pixabay

For NC, Thanksgiving during COVID-19 will feel weird.

A few years back, my family took our Thanksgiving show on the road for a long weekend at the beach.

My immediate family will be there, but so will my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids. In all, between 20 and 25 people will arrive at some point — and all of us love a good potluck. 

However, the big meal we grew up eating on the fourth Thursday in November isn’t in the cards this year. The group will spread out across three houses.

Some relatives will be there for the holiday, and others will come later or leave early. Families will meet outside, to make allow for a larger gathering size and more distance. The big meal is now a collection of small or medium meals. Could a group FaceTime or Zoom happen? Maybe.

These changes are what I suspect across the state. Family and friends will gather, but the feeling won’t be even close to the same. Still, they will gather.

Don’t forget: we’ve covered NC reopening phases from the beginning. Make sure to trace Phase 3’s development and get familiar with its ins and outs before the holiday!