COVID-19 casts pall over holiday season, but vaccines on way

This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 9, 2020).

Americans were forced to alter their Thanksgiving traditions and plans as the COVID-19 pandemic persisted across the country. Some opted to unite with their extended families via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms, limiting their in-person celebrations to immediate relatives and downsizing the Thanksgiving feast. Others chose to travel to visit family for the holiday in spite of advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to hold gatherings with people outside one’s household. Over one million people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at American airports on the day before Thanksgiving. While that’s less than half the number who traveled at that time last year, it represents the highest number of passengers screened in a day by the TSA since March 16. The rise in travel means “there is almost certainly going to be an uptick” in coronavirus cases, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Spread of the virus was already reaching staggering levels prior to the holiday, with the country surpassing 150,000 new cases and 1,500 deaths per day in the previous week. Hospitals in states like Utah and Minnesota are reaching dangerously high levels of ICU capacity. Nine states have reached a grim milestone as more than 1 in 1,000 of their residents have died of COVID-19. Similar adaptations will also have to be made for the upcoming Christmas holiday. As with Thanksgiving, holiday parties and family gatherings will need to be limited in size or scrapped altogether. Christmas traditions such as visits to Santa Claus at the mall will likewise have to incorporate social distancing and other health measures in order to continue this year. Parents may be hard pressed to afford the hottest new gifts, such as the PlayStation 5, considering the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic. Online shoppers will also need to get their orders in as soon as possible, as the usual holiday strain placed on package carriers will be compounded by decreased traffic to physical stores.

Fortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible in regards to COVID-19. Two vaccines against the coronavirus, one developed by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and BioNTech, have each been shown to have efficacy rates of over 90 percent. The makers of both vaccines have applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Pfizer and BioNTech’s has been granted such approval in the United  KingdomCOVID-19 casts a pall over holiday season, but vaccines on way. Depending on how quickly the FDA acts, health care workers and residents and staff of nursing homes could be vaccinated as early as mid-December. The two vaccine developers plan to have a combined 40 million doses ready for the US by year’s end.

These developments will serve as the backdrop for some of this edition’s stories, as we’ll look at how students altered their Thanksgiving celebrations and what their plans are for Christmas. We’ll cover signing day and the numerous student athletes who will continue their athletic careers in college. We’ll also report on the conclusion of the football season and examine how WROR TV creates their daily broadcasts.

Finally, as we approach winter break, The Lion’s Tale would like to offer congratulations on the completion of a successful first semester and wish a merry Christmas to all.