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Thanksgiving by the numbers: Turkeys, travel and a shorter parade


Thanksgiving is traditionally the most travelled holiday for families in the United States, but this year, health authorities urged Americans to stay home amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The pandemic has had an economic effect on everything from airlines to turkey farmers. So what does the first socially-distant Thanksgiving in the US look like by the numbers? Here’s a snapshot.

12.7 million

The number of COVID-19 cases in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. More than 262,000 Americans have died from the virus, making it the country with the highest death toll in the world.

14 days

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel at all for Thanksgiving but recommended those who choose to do so quarantine for 14 days beforehand.

State and federal health authorities have urged Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving this year, and if they do gather, to wear masks and practise social distancing [File: Cliff Owen/AP Photo]

40 percent

Despite those warnings, nearly 40 percent of Americans report they “will likely attend a risky gathering” this holiday season, according to a nationwide survey by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Those gatherings will include either more than 10 people or people from outside their immediate household, respondents said, and a third of respondents admitted they will not ask their guests to wear masks.

50 million

Not everyone is staying home, either. An estimated 50 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday this year, according to AAA Travel, a non-profit group of motor clubs. That is down from 55 million last year.

The vast majority of Americans who plan to travel to their Thanksgiving feasts will drive, according to AAA Travel [File: Orlin Wagner/AP Photo]

95 percent

Fewer travellers would not mean less traffic, however. Driving is the preferred way to get to the feast this year, with 47.8 million people expected to hit the road, down 4.3 percent from last year, according to AAA.

5 million

Some 5 million Americans travelled by plane from Friday to Tuesday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the US Transportation Security Administration, less than half of the number of travellers during the same period last year.

Airlines have felt the pinch of the pandemic more than most industries; earlier this fall, trade group Airlines for America reported one-third of the US fleet is idle and the industry is bleeding $5bn in cash per month.

About 5 million Americans flew toThanksgiving celebrations, despite the CDC urging people to stay home [File: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters]

353,000

The number of people expected to travel by bus, train or cruise, a 76.2 percent decrease from last Thanksgiving, according to AAA.

Overall, Thanksgiving travel by all modes is expected to drop at least 10 percent, the largest single-year decrease since the 2008 Great Recession, the group found.

1 block

The new length of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been shortened from its usual 4km-long (2.5 miles) route through New York City’s streets to discourage spectators from gathering.

Participants in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade have been reduced by 88 percent this year due to the pandemic, the company said [File: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]

The parade’s signature towering balloons would be flown by special vehicles this year rather than teams of 80 to 100 human handlers, Macy’s said, and the number of participants has been cut by 88 percent. Performers are decked out in their usual costumes, as well as face masks.

5.3 billion

The quantity of turkey in pounds Americans consumed in 2019, amounting to 16.1 pounds (7.3kg) per person over the course of the year, nearly double what it was in 1970, according to the National Turkey Foundation, a trade group.

The US is the world’s largest exporter of turkey products, with $426.6m going to Mexico alone. Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Peru are other big markets for US turkey, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

17 percent

Plenty of Americans are taking things virtual or preparing smaller meals for fewer guests, which means new amateur chefs will be manning the stove.

About 17 percent of people say they honed their cooking skills during coronavirus lockdowns and plan to put them to use this year, according to a poll by turkey producer Butterball. Have the fire extinguisher handy, just in case!

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