- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2020

The 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off Thursday but it — like everything else this year — looked a lot different, with a made-for-television performance in Manhattan replacing 3 million spectators in Midtown as the coronavirus pandemic exacts a toll on families and everyday life from coast to coast.

NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and The Roots kicked off festivities with an upbeat musical number in Herald Square while dancers wielded cheeky props reminding them to stay 6 feet apart.

“It may not be the parade we wanted, but the year it’s the parade we need,” host Al Roker said as he cut the opening ribbon with Macy’s CEO Jeffrey Gennette.

Giant balloons filtering through the limited route were pulled by vehicles instead of human handlers and the number of floats was slashed. Spectators who showed up were told to remain physically distant from each other.

The cutbacks come as the coronavirus flares across the country. An average of 175,000 infections were reported each day over the last week.

More than 1,600 people are dying from the virus each day, on average — double the roughly 800 who were dying per day a month ago. And more than 88,000 people are in the hospital for COVID-19 nationwide, an all-time high that exceeds the springtime crush in the Northeast and summer surge in the Sun Belt.

More people are surviving known infections — the case-fatality rate is down to 2.1% —but the virus tends to spread exponentially, and the combination of holiday gatherings and colder months has experts fearing the worst is yet to come.

The Thanksgiving holiday, though different, provided a nationwide moment of reflection amid the turmoil.

Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden told Americans to “hang on” and keep up the fight, while President Trump has largely avoided the current crisis but is heralding sunnier days ahead through emerging vaccines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prodded Congress to pass another coronavirus relief bill in her Thanksgiving statement, as her demands clash with the GOP’s.

“This vicious virus has torn through all our communities, and on this day in particular, we feel its devastating impacts, as many observe the holiday virtually, without the in-person comforting presence of family and friends,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “During this extraordinarily challenging time, we must have empathy and compassion for all who are suffering. We have a moral imperative to help them in a meaningful way.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to avoid travel on Thanksgiving or take special precautions to avoid transmission on modes of transportation or in mixed households. Many people hit the airports, anyway, with the Transportation Security Administration reporting it screened 1,070,967 people on Wednesday.

“It’s the highest volume since March 16 and only the 4th time passenger throughput has topped 1 million since that date,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein tweeted. Many pandemic-driven changes to travel and normal life hit in mid-March.

Volume at airports was still a far cry from a normal year. Last year, the TSA screened 2.6 million people.

Many people are resorting to Zoom chats to mingle with family this year or getting creative, such as holding an outdoor meal if the weather permits it.

The quieter holiday comes as governors and city officials from coast to coast resort to mask mandates or nighttime curfews on businesses to try and slow the spread.

The Supreme Court struck down restrictions from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that limited religious gatherings to 10 or 25 people in color-coded zones seeing spikes of the virus. The 5-4 decision deemed them an infringement on religious freedoms.

The moves seemed targeted at Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods that have struggled with the pandemic. The state said complaining entities weren’t subject to the restrictions at the moment, though critics said Mr. Cuomo shouldn’t reserve the right to reimpose the limits at his whim.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, praised the ruling as a win for fundamental rights.

“This Thanksgiving, Americans should be grateful for our First Amendment and for this straightforward ruling that simply affirms that government cannot disregard religious liberty in a crisis,” Mr. Sasse said. “The beating heart of America is the First Amendment, and this nasty virus won’t change that. This is good news.”

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