Americans awoke on Thursday to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day transformed by the coronavirus pandemic, with the traditional Macy’s parade limited to a television-only event and many families resigned to meeting on video for turkey dinner.
Thanksgiving, normally a day for family and friends to gather in large numbers to feast and remember life’s blessings, has been upended by the pandemic, with infections and deaths surging in recent weeks as cooler temperatures push people indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, a spectacle of giant character balloons that has delighted children for nearly a century, was scaled back significantly. The route was just a block long, rather than four kilometres; balloon handlers were replaced by specially rigged vehicles; and spectators weren’t allowed to line the streets as before.
The event kicked off on Thursday morning with a series of musical performances and balloons, including a four-storey-tall one of the dogs from the cartoon series PAW Patrol — all without the usual millions on hand to watch from the street.
The U.S. has seen nearly 12.8 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, with a death toll of more than 262,000.
On Wednesday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo implored her constituents to make Thanksgiving gatherings as small as possible. With hospitalizations surging, the state will begin a two-week “pause” on Monday, with bars, gyms and other establishments shut down.
“If you had that tough phone call with Mom and Dad and said, ‘I’m not coming over for Thanksgiving this year,’ … thank you,” she told a news conference. “If you haven’t done that, it’s not too late.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that he knows it’s difficult to skip or change traditions.
“A sacrifice now could save lives and illness, and make the future much brighter as we get through this,” he said on Good Morning America.
He urged people to keep indoor gatherings small and stick with public health measures like wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds.
“That’s my final plea before the holiday.”
What’s happening across Canada
As of 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 351,133, with 59,352 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,776.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick is rolling back the Fredericton region to the more restrictive orange phase following what the province’s top doctor called “concerning” cases resulting from interactions at large gatherings, the province’s top doctor said.
The province reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The Saint John and Moncton regions are already in the orange phase, where residents must restrict close contacts to a single household bubble, which may include a caregiver or family member from another household.
Nova Scotia reported 14 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday after reporting 16 new cases a day earlier.
Nova Scotia has 114 active cases of COVID-19. 14 new cases are being reported today. 12 are in Central Zone, 1 in Northern and the other is in Western zone. <a href=”https://t.co/nryZiE0WJp”>pic.twitter.com/nryZiE0WJp</a>
Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, leaving its total case number at 155. The Yukon and Northwest Territories had not yet updated their figures.
In Quebec, health officials on Thursday reported 1,464 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 675 with 90 in intensive care.
Quebec has reported a total of 136,894 infections and 6,947 deaths linked to the virus.
Premier François Legault has said that Quebecers are allowed to get together in groups of up to 10 people, twice, between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27, urging people to voluntarily quarantine themselves for a week before and after in exchange.
On Thursday, he reiterated earlier warnings that gatherings could be cancelled altogether if the situation worsens.
WATCH | Quebec premier says holiday gatherings won’t be allowed if cases rise too much:
Ontario‘s premier said additional resources are coming to “high-risk” areas of the province, including voluntary, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel and York regions.
The province has also earmarked $13.6 million in funding to provide extra support to school boards in Durham Region, Halton Region, Hamilton and Waterloo, Doug Ford told a news conference on Thursday.
Ontario reported 1,478 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 572 in Peel Region and 356 in Toronto. The province reported 21 new deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,575. Hospitalizations stood at 556, with 151 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.
The province is set to release new COVID-19 projections later this afternoon, which will be the first time it has released such data since sending Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown earlier this week.
Ford has urged people to limit indoor holiday celebrations to their own household, saying “traditions will have to be adjusted” this year as the province battles the ongoing pandemic.
WATCH | Stick to your own household for the holidays, says Ontario premier:
In Manitoba, the province’s chief public health officer said that roughly 70 per cent of Manitoba’s total COVID-19 deaths happened this month.
The grim figure came as Dr. Brent Roussin announced 10 more deaths due to COVID-19 and 383 new cases on Thursday. The province posted a record-high five-day test positivity rate of 14.8 per cent.
The province also reported a record 307 people with the illness in hospital, including 46 in intensive care.
Saskatchewan reported 299 new cases and three new deaths on Thursday, as the province’s largest seniors’ complex deals with an outbreak.
Pioneer Village in Regina is the latest care home in the province to be hit with an outbreak, which is declared when at least two or more cases are present.
The province made changes to its COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, including restricting capacity for places like casinos and movie theatres and changing rules for restaurants.
Premier Scott Moe, who spoke from self-isolation after a possible COVID-19 exposure, has previously said he’s not in favour of a complete lockdown.
WATCH | Saskatchewan tweaks COVID-19 restrictions with cases rising:
Alberta‘s death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 500 as case numbers in the province continue to climb, with 1,265 new cases reported on Wednesday.
“This is a tragic milestone,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said of the deaths on Twitter. “My sympathies go out to the loved ones and friends who are mourning these lives lost during what is a very difficult time to grieve.”
The province — which had 13,719 active cases on Wednesday — also reported 355 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 71 in intensive care.
British Columbia reported 13 additional deaths and 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday as hospitalizations in the province hit a new high. Health officials said 294 people were hospitalized, with 61 in critical care.
Health officials also noted that the record-high 941 new cases reported earlier this week was the result of a data collection error in the Fraser Health region. The correct number was actually far lower, at 695.
During Wednesday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a data correction on the number of new cases released in recent weeks. Our <a href=”https://twitter.com/j_mcelroy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@j_mcelroy</a> tells us what it means for the total cases reported over the last few days. <a href=”https://t.co/Z3Fx66M7wz”>pic.twitter.com/Z3Fx66M7wz</a>
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:55 a.m. ET
WATCH | Millions of Americans defy advice to avoid Thanksgiving travel:
As of early Thursday morning, there were nearly 60.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 38.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.
In Europe, Germany has passed the grim milestone of more than 15,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control centre, said Thursday that another 389 deaths were recorded overnight, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 15,160.
Germany has seen 983,588 total cases of the coronavirus after adding 22,368 overnight, the agency said.
Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open.
It was initially slated to last four weeks, but Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors agreed late Wednesday to extend it through Dec. 20 with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. It’s currently at 140 per 100,000.
Greece will extend its nationwide lockdown until Dec. 7 as COVID-19 cases continued to surge across the country, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday inaugurated a pharmaceutical plant in Siberia that will manufacture drugs to treat COVID-19 as the country reported record high numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths.
Russia has experienced a surge in infections since September, but authorities have resisted imposing lockdowns, relying instead on targeted measures in certain regions.
Russia reported a record high of 25,487 new coronavirus infections on Thursday and 524 deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest numbers it has reported since the start of the pandemic.
Roszdravnadzor, the health-care watchdog, said on Thursday that some regions in the country of around 145 million were running out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, the TASS and RIA news agencies reported.
Africa‘s top public health official says vaccinations against COVID-19 on the continent might not start until the second quarter of next year. And he says it will be “extremely dangerous” if more developed parts of the world vaccinate themselves and then restrict travel to people with proof of vaccination.
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that, “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available” in the past. He warned that “it’s clear the second wave [of infections] is here on the continent” of 1.3 billion people.
Africa last week surpassed two million confirmed coronavirus infections. The Africa CDC has been discussing vaccine options with Russia, China and others. Nkengasong said that “the worst thing we want for the continent is for COVID to become an endemic disease” in Africa.
In one hopeful development, authorities have begun distributing 2.7 million antigen tests throughout the continent, which Nkengasong said is “perhaps a game-changer” that allows for faster and easier testing. So far, some 21 million tests have been conducted across Africa’s 54 countries.
In the Americas, Mexico City has launched a test-and-trace approach to containing the coronavirus, after a rise in hospitalizations that has raised fears of a new economic lockdown.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea reported 583 new cases, the highest since March, as it grapples with a third wave of infections that appears to be worsening despite tough new measures.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that the next three weeks are going to be key for the country to stop further escalation of the surge in coronavirus infections that experts warn are putting medical systems on the verge of collapse.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Wednesday issued a request for an early closing time for places serving alcohol from Saturday to Dec. 17 and urged residents to avoid non-essential outings. On Thursday, she said the measures are needed “before the situation becomes even more serious.”
Japan survived the first wave in the spring without hard lockdowns.
India’s capital New Delhi is considering a nighttime curfew amid the latest coronavirus surge that has battered the city’s health-care system and overwhelmed its hospitals.
The New Delhi government on Thursday told this to a court that had questioned the administration on the measures being taken to control the spike in daily cases.
The court was hearing a plea seeking to ramp up COVID-19 testing facilities in the capital, which has recorded the most number of cases from any state in India for the last three weeks and more than 100 fatalities on average every day for two consecutive weeks.
India’s new overall infections have declined steadily after peaking in mid-September, but the situation in the capital remains worrying.
India has recorded 9.26 million cases of coronavirus, second behind the U.S. More than 135,000 Indians have died because of the virus so far.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday registered a daily record high of 13,843 new cases, the health ministry said, pushing the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.