Are you vaxxed? Some families face fraught divide over jabs

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Thanksgiving is Jonathan Mitchell’s Favorite Holiday

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NEW YORK — Thanksgiving is Jonathan Mitchell’s favorite holiday, usually spent with his wife co-hosting 20 loved ones. He looked forward to the gathering this year after calling it off in 2020 due to the pandemic, but one of the most pressing issues at the time was: who vaccinated and who didn’t?

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The situation, which Mitchell said is troubling and depressing, resonates with many families navigating the vaccination divide for the holidays. Thanksgiving is a bellwether for what the rest of the season will be like between those facing family conflicts on the shot.

“It’s a line in the sand that I’m willing to draw with others,” Mitchell said of the choice not to face his unrelated relatives. “I’ve cut a few friends and acquaintances who are staunchly opposed to vaccination, but you can’t do that with family.”

Carla Erickson, professor of sociology at Grinnell College, said this sentiment, echoed by others, points to a transition in the pandemic from a lingering fear over public safety and to a more long-term and intimate redefinition of social norms.

“Families often have silent conflicts and, because we’ve stayed in a way that’s really rare for families, resuming the ritual gives us a moment to rethink things,” she said. “There will be new hesitations. Many people who have been vaccinated may not be willing to attend an event where the host has not asked or does not know.”

Carrie Verrocchio, 55, in Binghamton, New York, is a long-distance COVID survivor who is still battling loss of taste and smell 10 months after testing positive. She’s hosting about 11 for Thanksgiving. Five have not been vaccinated. Everyone has been informed, he said.

“You just want people to be happy and together, and it seems like there is constant friction. No matter what we do, there is constant friction these days,” said Verrocchio, who contracted the virus. “We are handling this by allowing everyone to make their own decisions. It’s not ideal, but it’s a plan.”

Lizzie Post is the great-granddaughter of etiquette legend Emily Post. His famous relative wrote his first book, “Etiquette,” in 1922 until the Spanish flu took its fatal toll. Emily made no mention of how to navigate such a threat in that first edition, but today’s topic is hard to ignore for her etiquette standard-bearers.

“It’s a really delicate topic, and it’s not going to be good for everyone,” said Post, who is co-chair of the Emily Post Institute, host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, and author and author on Etiquette. He is the co-author of several books. ,

“Many of us have gotten used to the usual pastime as vaccinations are in trend. That means we really have experience with it and we know where our standards are for ourselves. But something good to back down and say There are reasons, you know, maybe the big family thing isn’t worth it if it’s going to be so frightening,” she said.

The way to escape the horrors is exactly what Eva Keller and her husband are taking for Thanksgiving. He has been vaccinated. He has contracted COVID twice and has no plans to get the shot. There was no talk of Thanksgiving with the husband’s family.

“My husband’s family has made it clear that I’m not allowed inside any of their homes until I’m fully vaccinated,” said Keller, 27, in Anaheim, California. “My husband was vaccinated only because of his parents’ insistence. He was worried that his mother would worry herself to death if she didn’t.”

The two will spend Thanksgiving together at home.

Eriksson sees other pandemic strands at play over the holiday season.

“There are also questions,” she said, “like how did this person or this family generally navigate the pandemic? Do we share values ​​about what this past year has meant for our families? What We kept in touch? Are we reconnected enough to share the holiday?”

August Abbott answers etiquette questions at, a help line with just over 10 million unique monthly visitors. Lately, she’s been answering questions about holiday gatherings and vaccinations. Among them: Is it rude to ask about the vaccination status of the guest? Can I refuse someone who hasn’t been vaccinated?

“It’s like Typhoid Mary. Do you invite her to dinner knowing Typhoid Mary, or do you explain to Mary, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t take a chance. We love you, but We can’t take that chance. When it comes to COVID, you have to deal with people without vaccines, especially if there is someone elderly or immunocompromised in your household. It’s just a matter of health and respect for each other, not political.” he said.

Tone, Abbott said, is everything.

“So it’s not unreasonable to say to Uncle Jack, you know, you haven’t been vaccinated. It’s your prerogative. I respect that. I love you. We can’t take chances. So, Uncle Jack, what? You want to come to this dinner via video? There are options like that, but you can’t risk health to be polite,” she said.

Frederick Brashaber, 36, in Cincinnati will gather for Thanksgiving with 13 family members at his mother’s home in Knoxville, Tennessee. The group includes her husband and their 15-month-old son, Freddie, who has Down syndrome, which puts her at higher risk for complications if she should catch COVID.

Brashaber’s 88-year-old grandmother, who lost her husband this year, had to move from Florida to Knoxville with an aunt and uncle. He has not been vaccinated. They won’t come after Thanksgiving vaccination talks with their mother. This means Grandma will have to board the plane alone without her husband for the first time.

“I’m not thrilled about it, but I’m happy that I ended up winning it,” he said. “I’ll have Grandma and Freddy and I won’t have to worry about anything. The number of people with Down syndrome is really bad. I wish people knew that yes, you have the option of working, but some of the most vulnerable People have no choice.”


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