Family battles over COVID-19 vaccine mandates on the menu in NYC this Thanksgiving (opinion)

STATEN ISLAND, NY — We used to talk mostly during Thanksgiving about which family member would host dinner and which side dishes or desserts everyone would bring.

But now there’s a new question for guests: Are you vaccinated?

As if Americans didn’t have enough to bicker about the festive table.

When families gather for Thanksgiving, unvaccinated loved ones may not be welcome at the meal. Or the unvaccinated may be told to present a negative COVID test to participate.

And there may be a good reason for that. Elderly relatives may be present who are at greater risk for the virus. Others may have health problems during dinner that make them more vulnerable.

There are a number of ways these conversations can run in different families.

Of course, the vaccinated can still get COVID and spread the virus. They may not even know they are sick. A vaccination card is therefore no guarantee for anything.

For other hosts, even a negative test may not be enough. They can require all their guests to be vaccinated. Forget a negative test. Forget your positive antibody results. Just grab the jab and you can sit at my table. Or you can sit out on the deck with the dog, if you prefer.

Some of those unvaccinated people may decide to pass Thanksgiving with the family this year and will look forward to the day when they can reunite with loved ones without jumping through COVID hoops.

It has implications on both sides of the vaccine battle.

Those who have not been vaccinated may not be able to get together with loved ones. But those loved ones may also be deprived of the company of some of their relatives and friends.

And some of those unvaccinated people may have partners or spouses who have been vaccinated, leaving those partners in a position to support their unvaccinated loved one or go to the family dinner or holiday party without them. Children can get caught in the crossfire.

And this vaccine battle has become a seething catch for everything else we love to discuss in this country: politics. Religion. Personal freedom. Forget setting a timer for the turkey. Set a timer to see how long it takes for someone to see Donald Trump or Dr. Anthony Fauci calls over dinner.

The hard feelings can last well after the holidays and even after the pandemic:

You didn’t want my company then, you can’t have it now.

You did not meet the vaccination mandate, I can no longer respect you.

Still, this year we have something to be thankful for.

COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have not reached the skyrocketing levels they reached during the worst days of the pandemic. And hopefully the numbers won’t rise to those levels, given the availability of vaccines, therapies and the fact that recovered COVID patients can count on at least some antibody protection.

Certainly, the efficacy of the vaccine is fading. Ultimately, this also applies to natural immunity. But we are not in lockdown. Businesses are open. Fans are allowed to participate in sporting events again.

The White House recently said it was unlikely the country would go into lockdown or the economy shut down again.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said vaccine mandates for domestic flights probably won’t be necessary because masking and other measures will do the trick.

Yes, gas prices are too high. And we pay too much for food in the supermarket. Heating costs are going up. The people of Washington, starting with President Joe Biden, will have to figure this out.

But let’s try to be thankful today. Things have been worse.

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