COVID: The uninvited Thanksgiving guest

Virus's threat causes some changes in Avoyelles Parish traditions

Thanksgiving is one of those occasions where even your "black sheep" uncle is welcome at the family dinner table. For one day a year, the most important thing is to bring the family together to share their thanks for the past year and hopes for the next.

This year will be different for many families. Not because they don't want "black sheep" Uncle Bill and his stripper girlfriend to visit, but because of a very unwelcome visitor that might crash the party -- COVID-19.

While many Avoyelleans reached that conclusion on their own, it has been reinforced by cautions handed down from the national Centers for Disease Control and from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In a recent press conference, Edwards said the sad truth of the current situation is that it would be a mistake to bring a large gathering to the Thanksgiving table.

While that might sound "anti-family" to some, Edwards said he sees it as loving your loved ones enough not to put them in danger of contracting the potentially fatal coronavirus. He recommends finding other, safer ways of expressing love to friends and family members during this holiday season.

LOCAL EXAMPLES

Due to the current COVID-19 conditions in the parish, the non-profit God's People Serving Others has decided to cancel its annual Thanksgiving community feast in Mansura.

"For the last three years, GPSO has enjoyed hosting our Thanksgiving community feast," organization founder Marva Batiste said. "It is with great regret we announce that our 4th annual event will be canceled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While there are probably many families facing the difficult choice of "abundance of food" on the table or an "abundance of care" to avoid the virus, here is one example.

DD and Coral Lamartiniere of Fifth Ward are, like many in the parish, very keen on spending holidays with their family members. In the Lamartiniere's case, when they talk about being a "close family," they mean physically as well as emotionally.

"I joke and say we're like the Ewings on Dallas," DD said with a laugh. "All of the children and grandchildren live near us. We spend every holiday together, but not this year."

DD said she and Coral are both cancer survivors with a compromised immune system. In addition, Coral is 77 and she is 67. Those two factors alone put them in a "high risk" category for serious complications should they contract COVID-19. For that reason, the Lamartinieres have decided to sacrifice the family gatherings.

"We did not get together for Easter, 4th of July, Labor Day and we will not be gathering for Thanksgiving or Christmas," DD said. "It's sad, but we feel it is necessary to take these precautions."

She said they have occasionally "sat out under the oak tree, wearing our masks, and visited with other family members," but the traditional family feasts aren't feasible under the current conditions.

CURRENT COVID NUMBERS

Avoyelles Parish entered Thanksgiving week with not much to be thankful for as it relates to the COVID crisis. State government and health officials were declaring that the "third wave" of COVID had crashed on our shores. Sunday's weekend update seemed to support that assessment. From Sunday to Sunday, Avoyelles Parish recorded 105 new cases -- an average of 15 a day. Of that 105, 84 were "confirmed" as molecular test results and 21 were categorized as "probable" due to positive results by the "rapid" tests that are being used now.

The parish's pandemic totals as of Sunday were 2,019 total cases -- 1946 and 73. The number of deaths remained at 65 confirmed and two probable since March.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday the state would return to a "modified Phase 2" with tougher restrictions. That phase began Wednesday. In the first half of the week, the parish had 33 new cases and one additional death from COVID-19, raising Wednesday's totals to 2,052 cases (1966 confirmed, 86 probable) and 68 deaths (66 confirmed, 2 probable) since the parish's first case was identified on March 21..

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