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Thanksgiving celebrations endure despite the pandemic, as a 'long, hard winter' nears

Despite public health warnings and the growing number of hospitalizations, Americans continued to travel across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Old traditions were tested and new ones made on Thursday as Americans celebrated Thanksgiving amid the first pandemic in a century and concerns grew over a possible post-holiday surge.

Some swapped large turkeys made for the the whole family with a chicken for two. Others held a gathering on Zoom. Still, millions of Americans eschewed public health warnings and criss-crossed the country this week to see family after many lonely months and countless missed celebrations.

Cassidy Zerkle, 25, flew from Phoenix to Kansas City, Missouri for the holiday, steadfast in her desire to see her loved ones.

“I think with the holidays and everything, it’s so important right now, especially because people are so bummed out because of the whole pandemic,” she said.

“As long as you’re maintaining your distance, you’re not touching stuff and you’re sanitizing your hands, people should see their families right now.”

Despite Covid-19 resulting in record high hospitalizations this week, reaching more than 88,000 on Tuesday, many continue to seek normalcy despite warnings against traveling.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was forced to issue an apology Wednesday after failing to heed his own advice, traveling to Mississippi for the holidays while urging his city’s residents to stay home.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel,” the mayor said.

Travelers wearing protective masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 arrive at LaGuardia Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.John Minchillo / AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced similar heat on Monday. He canceled his plans to celebrate Thanksgiving indoors with his 89-year-old mother Matilda after receiving criticism.

"Do as I say, not as I do," tweeted Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who chided Cuomo for his "hypocrisy" and "arrogance."

Cases in the country are increasing at an alarming rate and approaching 13 million, according to NBC News tallies, as more than 263,000 have succumbed to the disease.

President-elect Joe Biden said Wednesday that the country is facing a "long hard winter" because of the coronavirus but vowed that "life is going to return to normal."

The soon-to-be 46th president of the United States said that he, too, canceled his usually large Thanksgiving gathering, and will instead celebrate with just his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and their daughter and son-in-law.

In other coronavirus news:

  • 27 veterans died after an Illinois Veterans Affairs nursing home experienced a massive Covid-19 outbreak that infected nearly 200 residents and staff. State officials said they are investigating what caused the outbreak at the LaSalle facility, about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.
  • Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban again tested positive for the virus and reported mild symptoms, while the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game was moved to Sunday afternoon, out of an "abundance of caution," following an outbreak among Ravens players.
  • Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tested positive for the virus, his office said Wednesday, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he is quarantining after Covid-19 exposure and tested negative on Wednesday.
  • New targeted restrictions in New York City went into place Wednesday in places designated "orange" and "red" zones. Hospitalizations are up 128 percent over the past three weeks in the state, which was previously heralded as a Covid-19 success story.
The Associated Press contributed.