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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are at new peaks, cities and states are weighing second lockdowns, and flu season is upon us — but we're all looking the other way.

Why it matters: Pandemic fatigue has set in and the nation has collectively stopped caring just in time for the holiday season. This Thanksgiving could be catastrophic for public health.

Compare April's Zoom seders with the in-person Thanksgiving dinners being planned all across the country.

  • The number of Americans driving or flying this Thanksgiving will be in the tens of millions, per AAA (though travel will be down from 2019). According to CBS, the Transportation Security Administration expects to screen six million travelers this holiday.
  • Canceled spring proms and graduations have been replaced with fall birthday bashes.
  • The same cities that closed down within days in March are now waffling over shutdowns when case counts are more than double what they were then.

The big picture: "The incoming holidays have the potential to be a real, serious problem in terms of facilitating transmission," says William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

  • Student cross-country travel also has the potential to drive up cases. Of the students who are going home for Thanksgiving, 49% plan to socially distance but not quarantine at home, and 24% plan to take no measures at all, according to new polling from Generation Lab.
  • 59% of students plan to return to campus after the holidays.

Flashback: The Fourth of July and Labor Day sparked travel and new regional coronavirus outbreaks, and that was with the ability to comfortably congregate outdoors.

  • Another warning for Americans: Canadian Thanksgiving, which took place on Oct. 11, spurred countrywide case spikes there.

It's tiring for people to worry all the time, says Meredith Matson, a psychology professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. "As the novelty of this wears off, that fatigue starts to rise."

  • On top of that, the virus is competing for attention. The election and the holidays have been a distraction, especially for those who have not experienced a loss or a layoff, she says. "There are people who are fortunate enough, who have not had this affect them directly in a way that has forced them to take notice."
  • Selective hearing also plays role as people hear differing information on what's safe and what's not from their friends, their television sets and their president.
  • "If I want to have my family down for Thanksgiving, then I can go looking for peers and news sources and authorities who confirm what I want."

The bottom line: If Americans do plan to move forward with hosting out-of-town relatives or travel, they can take multiple precautions to reduce spread, per the CDC:

  • Quarantining for two weeks or getting a coronavirus test does not excuse people from other mitigation practices like avoiding close contact and crowds, or wearing masks.
  • Even if family members are comfortable with flying or driving, it is ill advised to visit cities experiencing current surges.
  • Ventilation is essential if being indoors is inevitable.
  • Consider your home state's travel or quarantine restrictions upon returning home.

Go deeper

Updated 20 hours ago - Sports

NFL reschedules Thanksgiving matchup for second time due to COVID outbreak

Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

The NFL has once again postponed a Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup originally scheduled for primetime on Thanksgiving day due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Why it matters: It's the first time the league has had to scrap a game since October, as the U.S. copes with another surge in coronavirus infections heading into the holidays.

Updated 20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
21 hours ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.