For over a century, Thanksgiving has been a time for Americans to express their gratitude for all life has to offer by inviting dozens of friends and family members into their homes and eating a large meal together.
Most of that will change this year.
Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 26, and will be unlike the others before it. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, local and state governments have provided suggestions on how to celebrate this holiday, famous for having many people confined to an indoor space, while social distancing is still in effect and COVID-19 cases are rising within the state.
Governor Phil Murphy advised New Jersey residents to limit the Thanksgiving guest list and move celebrations outside, “Maybe around a fire pit or a patio heater”. Murphy also strongly discouraged traveling outside the state to meet with friends/family members for celebrations.
Despite the advice of state governments to practice social distancing during Thanksgiving, many universities are anticipating a COVID-19 surge after the holiday and have chosen to quit hybrid/in-person education after Thanksgiving. For many university students, the semester has been truncated to end before Thanksgiving or will have to be conducted virtually after the holidays.
Students whose semesters end early have had almost no days off since school started in August/September as they have had to cram a semester’s worth of education into a couple of months. The University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, Rice, and Creighton as well as many others abruptly announced they were sending students home after Thanksgiving, leaving some students worried about accidentally bringing the virus back to their families.
Prominent universities in New Jersey like Rutgers, Stevens, Princeton, and TCNJ have opted to stay virtual after the break, but remaining virtual also comes with its own disadvantages.
Bhumi Peer, a third-year at Stevens Institute of Technology, provides her reaction to how her school handled the pandemic.
“There’s so much anxiety with being all online and [having] minimal interaction with others, but most of my professors have been understanding and have actually made tests and assignments easier. I do sometimes feel like I’m losing out on my education because I’m a civil engineering major so I need a lot of practical hands-on experience.”
Peer’s views are common amongst a lot of students who feel like being in school is essential to their learning experience, particularly those whose courses are heavily lab-based. Even at SBHS, students fear falling behind.
Senior Sriya Anumolu, who takes AP Biology and Human Anatomy & Physiology (both heavily lab-based classes), shares her concerns regarding virtual education.
“I think I need the most in-person instruction for AP Biology and Anatomy. For anatomy specifically, we learned about the brain and I think it would’ve been way more helpful if we looked at an actual brain rather than a picture. For biology, the websites we use for labs are very confusing and it would be much easier to do labs in person. While [virtual learning] might not impact my grades, I do think it is impacting my education.”
South Brunswick schools have currently decided to remain virtual until at least after December 14th, with the possibility that staff only may return after that time. The high school itself is completely closed to both students and staff until that time due to two recent Covid cases.
When students will return to school in person is still indefinite.
While the pandemic’s progression after Thanksgiving is still uncertain, it is important that individuals remember to keep their safety and the safety of others in mind to avoid a potential surge in cases. If meeting with friends and family during the pandemic, remember to social distance, wear masks, and consider moving the celebration outside.
Thanksgiving won’t be celebrated traditionally this year but its spirit still remains as long as people take time to appreciate their lives and the people around them. Now more than ever, it is important for people to feel grateful for what they do have and remain hopeful for the future.