‘Normal’ Thanksgiving returning for some, others still wary

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The coronavirus pandemic altered the normal Thanksgiving last year, forcing families across the country to limit their gatherings — or not meet up at all. Now many vaccinated people say they are ready to return to their usual holiday festivities, though some still remain cautious about large get-togethers.

David Fagan, a Long Beach husband and father of two, said the Covid-19 vaccine would allow his family to get together this year. “My family is going to get together because we couldn’t last year,” Fagan said. “Since we’re all vaccinated, it allows us and gives us the comfort to get together.”

Kim Ashmead, a former Long Beach PTA member, said her family would hold Thanksgiving this year with friends at a vacation house in Massachusetts. She did the same last year.

“Everyone is [now] fully vaccinated, and some even have boosters already,” Ashmead said. “Last year it was the same, except we all got Covid tests before and isolated after the test, so we were very careful.”

Laura Shockley, owner of Point Lookout Yoga & Wellness, is taking a low-key approach to Thanksgiving, as she did in 2020.  Her family, she said, includes a number of young children who are unvaccinated. 

"If it was just me, I wouldn't worry," Shockley said, “but I'm worried about my students [at my business]. Many of them are older,” making them potentially more susceptible to infection. Shockley herself is vaccinated, but she is planning a small, outdoor gathering of six or so friends.

If she were to become ill with Covid, she said, her business could suffer irreparable harm, as her staff is small.

Point Lookout, she said, is "a safe place," and she patronizes local restaurants and stores, but avoids large gatherings.

"The summer was not what I would like" in terms of business, she said. "We expanded our yoga place, but we really, really need a great holiday season.”

Eric Krywe, a Long Beach High School teacher and Lido Beach resident, goes with his family every year to his aunt and uncle’s house in New Jersey. Family members ride “dirt bikes and four-wheelers around the farm with the kids,” he said.

This year, there’s someone new he gets to see for the first time. “I’m super excited this Thanksgiving because my cousin just had a new baby boy, and it’s the first time we’ll meet him,” Krywe said. “Thank God for a return to normalcy.”

At the MLK Center in Long Beach, dozens of people tuned out for a Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday night, an annual tradition. They were served turkey, mashed potatoes and a variety of vegetables.

Anissa Moore, a former Long Beach City Council president and community activist, had to suspend her normal Thanksgiving plans last year because of the pandemic. Her gathering was limited to immediate family only.

This year will be different. Moore said she would have about 20 family members and friends over between Thanksgiving and Friday.

"This year is going to be normal," Moore said. “I look forward to this year spending time with lots of family and friends. This year, we can open the door to friends."

She said she would not require her guests to wear masks because they have received their Covid-19 vaccinations. "We know they are following protocol," she said.

Erika Prafder, of Long Beach, looks forward to a "normal" Thanksgiving this year. The family last year limited guests to five people because of the pandemic. They had dinner at Pfrader's mother's house in East Atlantic Beach.

This year, the gathering will take place in New Jersey, at the home of a sister. "This year, we are back with a full family," Prafder said. "We're giving mom a break. Everyone has been vaccinated. We are praying for the best outcome. We're trying to resume a normal holiday life. This is a family day and a food day."

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