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Started: 2020-11-28 09:08:51

Submitted: 2020-11-28 12:04:13

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator celebrates Thanksgiving via video conference; "Zoomsgiving", if you will

COVID-19 claimed one more casualty at the end of the First Plague Year: Thanksgiving.

Every even year, for as long as I can remember, my extended Logan family has gathered for a family reunion on Thanksgiving. (In the 1980s and until 1992 we gathered at the Adventist camp at Wawona, in Yosemite, until we outgrew the camp; since then we've gathered at the Adventist camp at Leoni Meadows, somewhere vaguely in the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Sacramento.) But this year, with the global pandemic ravaging the country, we took a look at the trends and decided there was no way we could safely meet while maintaining some sort of physical distance between families traveling from different parts of the state. (We made this decision in August, but it proved sadly prescient: As of this week, most of California — including El Dorado County, where Leoni Meadows sits — is in California's most-restrictive "Purple" tier, with the virus "Widespread", meaning large gatherings are banned.)

In lieu of the big Logan family gathering, and considering that I wasn't totally comfortable driving or flying to Walla Walla in the midst of an escalating global pandemic, we considered hosting the West Coast contingent of my immediate family at our house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But as November rolled around, COVID-19 cases started trending upwards again, apparently driven by small household gatherings as people gave in to COVID fatigue and started socializing outside their households. (A good part of this fatigue is driven by frustration by the abject failure of the Federal government to handle the pandemic, which has frustrated state and local responses.)

By the middle of the month, most of the state had fallen back to the "Purple" tier, closing more businesses and requiring others to reduce capacity, while elected leaders and public health officials urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving and avoid people outside their households. (Even as case counts in Santa Cruz County and California as a whole climbed to their highest levels ever, even higher than the first peak this summer, our per-capita case rates are still an order of magnitude lower than the current hot spots in North and South Dakota, followed closely by Nebraska and Iowa. We're doing badly, and trending in the wrong direction; they're in the middle of a full-blown catastrophe.)

At this point in the pandemic, nearly nine months after my life was turned up-side-down by the deadly virus, I'm still not quite sure how paranoid I ought to be. My confidence interval runs from "somewhat paranoid" to "very paranoid"; I'm quite sure I ought to wear a mask when I'm out around people (especially indoors) but I'm not really sure how I ought to feel about dining out or sanitizing my hands all the time. I have decided it's ok to leave my house and go to the beach or go or a walk. I'm conflicted about travel: I did fly several times this summer to move to California (which was a surreal experience) and I think the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 is low, but it's still non-zero so I guess I'm going to stay home for now.

In the midst of intensifying pandemic, we decided to avoid gathering in person for the holiday, and instead held Thanksgiving dinner, physically separated, via video conference. "Zoomsgiving", if you will (though we used Google Meet as our conference platform of choice).

Sharon, Julian, Kiesa, Jaeger, and Calvin with the family video conference Thanksgiving
Sharon, Julian, Kiesa, Jaeger, and Calvin with the family video conference Thanksgiving

We intended to coordinate our Thanksgiving dinner at 16:00 PST, but my game of Settlers of Catan with Calvin and Julian ran longer than I intended (partially because this was Julian's first game of Settlers of Catan where he played without assistance), so we didn't start setting the table until after 16:00. The video chat worked well enough: We could talk with my family, distributed in five places in four states (and two countries). We stayed on the video conference through dessert and after the meal, as we worked on our own copy of the same puzzle, before eventually signing off later in the evening.

Julian helps assemble a space puzzle
Julian helps assemble a space puzzle

To give us something to do together, despite being physically separate, my sister Bethany ordered us all copies of a space puzzle, featuring the first eight planets in the solar system, plus a pastiche of space exploration from the last 50 years. I started my puzzle first (my employer gave me the whole week off) and finished it by Wednesday, before anyone else had gotten very far with theirs. (This gave me the opportunity to use our family WhatsApp group to trash-talk my family for their lack of progress with their puzzle.)

Completed space puzzle
Completed space puzzle

After I finished the puzzle we were all working on, I completed two more puzzles to give me something to do during the long holiday week; and then I retired from puzzling, at least until Christmas.

Thanksgiving wasn't the same via video conference, but we did (we hope) our part to stop the spread of the global pandemic, in hopes of having many more Thanksgivings in the years to come.