Warped by the pandemic like the rest of 2020, Thanksgiving arrived for a fatigued, grieving nation not as a day to gather, but a day when people were implored not to.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, alcohol was banned at Pennsylvania bars Wednesday night and Temple University’s Saturday football game, its season finale, was canceled. New Jersey issued a blanket advisory against all interstate travel. Families were keeping their distance, not coming together.
And across the commonwealth, the pandemic’s death toll — the number of people who will be missing from their families’ Thanksgiving tables — surpassed 10,000 people. In New Jersey, it’s 15,057.
“It’s not too late to change your plans for tomorrow,” Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded in a tweet Wednesday morning. Throughout the region and the country, public officials and health experts have asked people to celebrate only with the people they live with.
The uniquely American holiday comes as America’s coronavirus pandemic worsens into an increasingly unique crisis: In the last two weeks alone, more than 2 million people contracted the virus, according to New York Times data. And Tuesday saw the highest number of COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide since early May, around 2,100.
Pennsylvania reported 6,759 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 144 virus-related deaths Wednesday.
About 3,897 people were hospitalized with coronavirus complications in Pennsylvania as of Wednesday, officials said, 826 of them in intensive care units. More than four-fifths of the state’s approximately 4,000 ICU beds were filled, according to state data.
Pennsylvania said it would start sending pandemic-related advisories to cell phones using the national alert system used for emergency messages. The Wolf administration planned to send the first message Wednesday, with a choice to opt into alerts about each region of the state.
New Jersey reported 4,073 new cases and 50 deaths Wednesday. The state also scrapped its long-running travel advisory that listed states from which travelers must quarantine, instead saying all nonessential interstate travel is discouraged because of the ongoing surge.
Residents or visitors who enter New Jersey from any state except Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, or Connecticut are asked to quarantine for 14 days.
In Philadelphia, city officials reported 1,246 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths.
A City Council committee on Wednesday approved legislation to extend a requirement for landlords to participate in an eviction diversion program aimed at keeping Philadelphians in their homes during the coronavirus program. The bill now goes to the full council.
Meanwhile, a new study found that less than 10% of the U.S. population has evidence of infection-fighting antibodies to the coronavirus.
The study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published online Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine is the largest and broadest to estimate how many people have the protective antibodies in their blood.
The U.S. has seen nearly 13 million confirmed cases of the virus. Experts say 60% to 70% of the population would have to develop immunity, either through infection or vaccination, to make disease spread unlikely, or obtain “herd immunity.”
And as the holiday season officially kicked off, a group of more than 400 Pennsylvania hospital doctors, nurses, and leaders on Wednesday asked residents to help them stop the spread of the virus.
“One person’s actions make a small difference; many people together can make a huge impact,” they wrote in a statement publicized by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. “Please help us protect each other, our families, neighbors, and communities.”
Most Americans said they were staying home with their households for Thanksgiving, heeding health officials’ warnings, according to a survey of 150,000 Americans commissioned by the New York Times. Only 27% said they planned to eat with people outside their household.
Addressing the nation Wednesday afternoon, President-elect Joe Biden called on Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving with just a few family members and to remain optimistic despite the tragedy, pain, and anxiety that has marked the past nine months.
He said his family has called off their usual large gathering and he and his wife will be celebrating only with their daughter, Ashley, and son-in-law, Howard Krein, at home in Wilmington.
Biden called reducing the size of turkey dinners and following public health guidelines “our patriotic duty as Americans.” And he spoke to families who have lost loved ones, referencing the 2015 death of his son Beau.
“It’s really hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to even think of looking forward. It’s hard to hope,” Biden said. “I’m thinking of every one of you at your Thanksgiving table, because we’ve been there.”
Staff writers Marie McCullough, Allison Steele, Sean Collins Walsh, and Marc Narducci contributed to this article, along with The Washington Post.