A Public Health Expert Weighs in on That Controversial NYTimes Thanksgiving Column
‘We aren’t really in a bubble — we are in a web’
This Thanksgiving, many people are making difficult sacrifices. For frontline health care workers, this means long shifts away from loved ones, caring for critically ill people struggling against a deadly illness. For others, it means skipping traditional holiday festivities in favor of quiet celebrations at home.
In a New York Times opinion piece on November 20, Farhad Manjoo discussed his approach to weighing the risks and benefits of traveling for Thanksgiving with his family, ultimately deciding to travel to see loved ones. Manjoo immediately came in for an onslaught of criticism from medical and public health professionals and members of the media. And Manjoo is far from an isolated case: Tens of millions of Americans are still expected to travel for the holidays, and airports are already getting busier with a flood of Thanksgiving travelers.
The BU Covid Corps have been evaluating and providing feedback on people’s pandemic decision-making for Elemental’s COVID Diary Audit Series. So Caredwen Foley, a graduate student in the graduate program, and Eleanor Murray, ScD, an assistant professor, at Boston University School of Public Health, wanted to take a look at Manjoo’s decision-making process — and his ultimate decision — to give guidance to people who are still sorting out their holiday plans.
Unless we’re in a fixed quarantine bubble with members of another household, and neither household is exposed to anyone else, we aren’t really in a bubble — we are in a web.
How susceptible is Manjoo’s family?
Manjoo’s decision is about whether he and his wife and two children should travel to visit his parents and his sister 300 miles away. We don’t know about the relative susceptibility of all of Manjoo’s relatives, but he does state that his father is 71 and has diabetes — conditions which both place Manjoo’s father at higher risk for serious complications or death if he were to contract Covid-19. Anyone at increased risk of contracting Covid or…