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Local families plan to celebrate ‘Zoomsgiving’ amid surge in COVID-19 cases

This year, phones and tablets are welcome at the table as families stay apart to prevent virus spread

VINTON, Va. – With health leaders preaching distance this holiday season, some families in our area are doing ‘Zoomsgiving’ instead. That of course is Thanksgiving by yourself, or with just your household, while video calling with other family.

It’s a tough decision for many, deciding what to do. But for Julie Satterwhite and her family in Vinton, the decision made itself. They’re choosing to keep their family isolated from others to prevent spreading COVID-19.

“We decided that because with my husband being a teacher and he is teaching in person and a few other of his family members of his family that are educators, that it wasn’t really a good idea to merge these bubbles,” Satterwhite said.

Dr. Robert Trestman is the chair of psychiatry at Carilion Clinic. He said people face a serious dilemma, choosing to spend Thanksgiving at home, not seeing people they can touch and see, at the risk of spreading the virus, which is invisible.

“We are social animals, the vast majority of us are much happier when we are around people we care about,” Dr. Trestman said. “Unless you have been impacted directly it’s hard to have a sense of how bad it can be.”

The CDC now recommends canceling Thanksgiving get togethers and Governor Ralph Northam echoed that recommendation at his news conference Wednesday. He said staying apart is an act of love, and Dr. Trestman agrees.

“It’s real and we do need to express our love this Thanksgiving by protecting the people that we love,” Dr. Trestman said.

The Satterwhites are celebrating their eight month old baby this holiday, and said most of the family still hasn’t had a chance to meet the new baby yet.

Thanksgiving would normally be the perfect time to do so, but with the current situation, she said they’ll just have to wait a little longer.

“Until it’s safe for them to actually get to meet in person versus maybe exposing somebody and not knowing and then never getting the opportunity to see them again,” Satterwhite said.

If you do host family like normal this holiday, the CDC recommends keeping 6 feet from each other, and some experts even drinking through a straw under your mask.