Corona: Thanksgiving threatens to become a superspreader event

WHow rapidly the coronavirus is spreading in America can be illustrated as follows: If the US states were independent countries, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa would occupy the first four places worldwide. Nowhere have the authorities recently – in relation to the population – more new infections. Only then do Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Belgium follow, the front runners in Europe.

America’s current President Donald Trump often played down Corona and said the virus, he said again and again, would “miraculously disappear very soon”. In fact, his country is now in the middle of the third wave. Well over 150,000 citizens are currently infected every day. In total, there have been more than eleven million infected people and a quarter of a million deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. That sounds dramatic – but it is probably just the beginning.

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Because on November 26th, Thanksgiving begins, the harvest celebration, for many Americans the most important festival of the year, more important than Christmas. In the last week of the month, airports, train stations and highways are usually busier than any other time. People travel thousands of miles to see friends and relatives and to eat the traditional turkey. And there is little to suggest that 2020 will be any different. Virologists therefore warn of a disaster.

48 million citizens, predicts the American Automobile Association, something like the German ADAC, will travel to the celebrations by car – that would be only four percent less than last year. The number of passengers, however, is likely to collapse. The Transportation Security Administration, responsible for security at America’s airports, expects only a quarter of the usual crowd. However, that would still correspond to six million passengers. Around 400,000 travelers are expected on the country’s trains and buses.

Corona critics refer to George Orwell

No nation suffers as much from Corona as America – and yet in a few days a large part of the population will meet here to celebrate. At the height of the crisis, of all places, the virus apparently no longer bothered millions of citizens. Trump’s government should help. White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany called travel restrictions “Orwellian”.

This is an adjective that is often used in the USA and is derived from the name of the writer George Orwell. This described a totalitarian surveillance state shortly after the Second World War in 1984. McEnany insulted California, New York and Oregon, where relatively strict corona rules apply, as such surveillance states.

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The country should feel the consequences of carelessness in a few weeks. Thanksgiving may prove to be a time bomb. The number of infections could rise even faster – and bring the health system to the brink of collapse. America’s hospitals are already lacking almost everything: beds, masks, gloves, staff.

“We are alarmed,” said Henry Walke of the CDC in a conference call with journalists. He understands that people want to see their families – after all, Thanksgiving is one of the most important American customs. But this is not the time for parties, especially not in closed rooms, as many citizens planned because of cool temperatures. “The country,” said Walke, “is entering a new, critical phase.”

Canada is a chilling role model

The CDC strongly advises against traveling for Thanksgiving and urges Americans to cancel their bookings – a stark contrast to the Trump administration’s attempts to belittle Corona. “What worries us,” said Walke, “is not just about flying or traveling by train.” Perhaps the biggest problem is the terminals. “Wherever people have to queue,” said Walke, “it becomes particularly dangerous.”

What could happen after Thanksgiving can be seen in the United States‘ northern neighbor. Canadians always celebrate the festival a little earlier, on the second Monday in October. They too travel all over their country to meet friends and relatives, and they too usually serve their turkeys in closed rooms. So how has the number of infections developed in Canada?

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In the week before the festival, an average of 2200 people were infected every day – now there are almost 5000. There are certainly several reasons for this, according to the Canadian government. But Thanksgiving was one of them, and an important one. The authorities have often traced the virus back to families who have come together in large groups.

The number of cases rose in Canada even before Thanksgiving. But after that, the virus spread faster – the curve became steeper. And that although the country has not tested more frequently than before in the past few weeks. What happened to the Canadians should be a warning to the Americans.

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