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Av Gordon cautiously planned his turkey dinner in the dining room on Thursday instead of celebrating outside. But the second Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic was far from a normal holiday.

Last year, Gordon and his family huddled six feet apart in his Plymouth driveway to swap takeout before grilling each other in a way that defines 2020 : from their own home on Zoom. But this year, the three generations – all vaccinated – sat inside at three tables, donning masks between potatoes and pies.

“I guess it’s important to be thankful that we’re further away than last year,” said Gordon’s daughter Abbe Bernstein, 55, of Plymouth. “We’re just not as far as we thought we were.”

Like people across the country, Minnesotans are trying to balance the continuing threat of the coronavirus by safely reuniting for the second holiday season.

In Minnesota, emergency rooms are stepped up and COVID-19 cases are on the rise, with the state approaching last year’s pandemic peak in hospitalizations in late November. More than 9,200 Minnesotans have died from complications from COVID-19.

But there are a few bright spots: Last week, the CDC approved booster shots for all Americans 18 and older, and Minnesota ranks second among states for adults who received booster shots. More than 64% of Minnesotans aged 5 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health.

For Gordon and his family, there are also reasons to be thankful.

No one in the family has been sick with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and things have slowly returned to a new normal. The children resumed soccer tournaments and high school classes in person, albeit wearing masks. Some adults have returned to working in the office rather than at home. They again looked suspiciously at plays and concerts. Bernstein even put his sheet masks away over the summer when cases declined and Americans hoped the worst was over.

“We had all heard that as soon as winter set in, things were going to get worse, but somehow I couldn’t believe it. It’s scary,” said Gordon.

With the rapidly evolving delta variant resulting in cases of COVID, the family considered returning to an outdoor party while hosting 19 people from 11 households. Instead, they followed CDC guidelines for holiday celebrations with multiple households, adding extra precautions.

Teens and those 20 and older who had yet to receive their booster shots took rapid COVID-19 tests Thursday before dinner and sat at their own tables while adults 70 and older dined at a separate table. They skipped the appetizers to minimize the mixes without masks. And a nearby door was kept open to stimulate air circulation despite the cold 16-degree night.

“I would prefer everyone to mix, but everything has to be different this year,” Gordon said from the senior table. “I’m just grateful to have my family around me.”

As guests arrived with containers of salad and side dishes, someone asked for a thermometer.

“For a person or a turkey?” Another replied jokingly.

Thanksgiving comes with special rituals for many Americans. For the Gordon family, it’s a chance to come together for a joyous feast and to honor Gordon’s late wife, Bari Gordon, at her favorite party.

Last year, a month before Thanksgiving, the family organized Bari’s funeral on Zoom, just as they had celebrated Passover. They turned down family hugs and held their small-scale Thanksgiving aisle party, one of many family events held outside before vaccines were available.

“Everything was fragmented,” said Gordon’s daughter Juli Olson, 51, of Maple Grove. “It was all part of the new normal. “

This year, the family is still skipping Black Friday shopping, but some of the holiday traditions are back. They will meet for a small Hanukkah celebration for the first time since 2019 and start planning their trip in 2022.

On Thursday, with a typical turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potato spread, the family assembled a cornucopia centerpiece of fresh vegetables, just like Bari had done for years, made her stuffed celery. usual and passed around his chocolate turkeys wrapped in foil. – this time sporting homemade mini blue masks.

It wasn’t the big party Bari had always planned, inviting colleagues or roommates wandering around with nowhere to go for the holidays. But in many ways it looked like a typical feast: teenagers on the phone, adults chatting about work, and Bernstein lamenting the mass of leftover potatoes.

“It’s better than the driveway,” Olson said of the event. “Things are getting better. Things are getting better.”


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