Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving

Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_01125 Kerry Osaki, right, helps his wife, Lena Adame, in the kitchen in Fountain Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. For years, Osaki went with his mother to his aunt's house for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family. His wife spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives. This year, both of their traditions have fallen to the pandemic that took the life of Osaki's 93-year-old mother.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_74455 Kerry Osaki and wife, Lena Adame, pose for photos outside their home in Fountain Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. For years, Osaki went with his mother to his aunt's house for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family. His wife spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives. This year, both of their traditions have fallen to the pandemic that took the life of Osaki's 93-year-old mother.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_88113 Vivian Zayas cooks rice and beans according to a recipe from her mother, the recently deceased Ana Martinez, as she and her sister Alexa prepare Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_67722 John Franz and his daughter Molly, 8, check on a turkey breast being grilled for Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, at their home in Olathe, Kan. Franz lost his mother to COVID-19 on Nov. 10 and was having a scaled-back Thanksgiving with just his household due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_70252 Molly Franz, 8, hangs ornaments on a Christmas tree while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Franz lost her grandmother to COVID-19 on Nov. 10 and her family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the virus.
CORRECTION_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_90463 An image Ana Martinez, the recently deceased mother of sisters Vivian Zayas and Alexa Rivera, rests besides an empty chair as Thanksgiving dinner is served, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement. The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, and putting her mother's walker in its place.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_18733 Molly Franz, 8, hangs ornaments on a Christmas tree while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Franz lost her grandmother to COVID-19 on Nov. 10 and her family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the virus.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_25509 Jessica and John Franz have Thanksgiving dinner with their daughters, Amelia, 11, left; Molly, 8, back; and Quinn, 2, front, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. The family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just the household due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_88113 HOLD FOR ENRIC MARTI Vivian Zayas cooks rice and beans by her mother's recipe, the recently deceased Ana Martinez, as she and her sister Alexa prepare Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y.
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Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_78663 Jessica and John Franz prepare Thanksgiving dinner while their daughters Quinn, 2, and Molly, 8, talk on a Zoom call with family members, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Also in background middle, is daughter Amelia, 11. The family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_23245 Jessica Franz sets up a Zoom call with family members for her daughters Quinn, 2, and Molly, 8, while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. The family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_54369 Jessica Franz sets up a Zoom call with family members while her husband, John, helps prepare Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. The family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the coronavirus.
APTOPIX_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_06830 Nursing home residents hold signs as staff members walk by during a Thanksgiving celebration at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home also offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_26821 Evelyn Maysonet looks at the food delivery from the Weber-Morgan Health Department Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ogden, Utah. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son in their Ogden home since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over a week ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries so Maysonet said they were thrilled to receive the health department's delivery.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_95440 Family members, reflected in the window, wave goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
APTOPIX_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_48488 Family members wave goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_96345 Kara McKlemurry poses for a photo while writing Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic.
APTOPIX_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_06830 Nursing home residents hold signs as staff members walk by during a Thanksgiving celebration at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home also offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_46727 Kara McKlemurry writes Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic.
APTOPIX_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_48488 Family members wave goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_73734 Nurse Jessica Franz, shows a photo of her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, outside Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Elaine Franz died Nov. 10, one day before her 78th birthday, after contracting COVID-19.
ADDITION_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_23724 Nurse Jessica Franz walks past a mobile morgue at Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Franz lost her mother-in-law to COVID on Nov. 10 and was planning a scaled-back Thanksgiving with just her household.
ADDITION_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_23724 Nurse Jessica Franz walks past a mobile morgue at Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Franz lost her mother-in-law to COVID on Nov. 10 and was planning a scaled-back Thanksgiving with just her household.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_78851 Evelyn Maysonet, 53, looks on as food is provided by Weber-Morgan Health Department Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ogden, Utah. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son in their Ogden home since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over a week ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries so Maysonet said they were thrilled to receive the health department's delivery.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_01125 Kerry Osaki, right, helps his wife, Lena Adame, in the kitchen in Fountain Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. For years, Osaki went with his mother to his aunt's house for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family. His wife spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives. This year, both of their traditions have fallen to the pandemic that took the life of Osaki's 93-year-old mother.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_74455 Kerry Osaki and wife, Lena Adame, pose for photos outside their home in Fountain Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. For years, Osaki went with his mother to his aunt's house for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family. His wife spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives. This year, both of their traditions have fallen to the pandemic that took the life of Osaki's 93-year-old mother.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_97611 Nursing home resident Jeannette Levy, 95, speaks with family members during a drive-by visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx during Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in New York. 
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_31609 A nursing home resident holds a sign addressed to the staff before a small Thanksgiving Day parade with nurses, other staff and residents at the Hebrew home at Riverdale in the Bronx, Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in New York.
CORRECTION_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_90463 An image Ana Martinez, the recently deceased mother of sisters Vivian Zayas and Alexa Rivera, rests besides an empty chair as Thanksgiving dinner is served, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement. The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, and putting her mother's walker in its place.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_44336 Vivian Zayas holds onto the walker once belonging to her recently deceased mother Ana Martinez while her family prays before Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement. The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, and putting her mother's walker in its place.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_84084 Esdras Zayas places the Thanksgiving turkey on the dining room table before his family celebrates their first holiday without their beloved mother Ana Martinez who died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_94016 Vivian Zayas holds onto the walker once belonging to her recently deceased mother Ana Martinez while her family prays before Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_30159 An image of Ana Martinez rests on a table beside an American flag and Christian bible, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. COVID-19 claimed the life of the retired seamstress at age 78 on April 1 while she was recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_25642 Vivian Zayas holds onto the walker once belonging to her recently deceased mother Ana Martinez while her family prays before Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement. The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, and putting her mother's walker in its place.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_89309 Vivian Zayas adjusts the flowers adorning the walker once belonging to her recently deceased mother, Ana Martinez, before Thanksgiving dinner is served, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Deer Park, N.Y. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_54701 An old photo of Kerry Osaki's mother, Rose, center, who died of COVID-19, hangs on the wall at Osaki's home in Fountain Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. For years, Osaki went with his mother to his aunt's house for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family. His wife spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives. This year, both of their traditions have fallen to the pandemic that took the life of Osaki's 93-year-old mother.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_06830 Nursing home residents hold signs as staff members walk by during a Thanksgiving celebration at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home also offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_95440 Family members, reflected in the window, wave goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_48488 Family members wave goodbye to nursing home resident Barbara Farrior, 85, at the end of their visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in New York. The home offered drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_97611 Nursing home resident Jeannette Levy, 95, speaks with family members during a drive-by visit at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx during Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in New York. 
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_26821 Evelyn Maysonet looks at the food delivery from the Weber-Morgan Health Department Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ogden, Utah. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son in their Ogden home since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over a week ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries so Maysonet said they were thrilled to receive the health department's delivery.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_31609 A nursing home resident holds a sign addressed to the staff before a small Thanksgiving Day parade with nurses, other staff and residents at the Hebrew home at Riverdale in the Bronx, Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in New York.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_96345 Kara McKlemurry poses for a photo while writing Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_73734 Nurse Jessica Franz, shows a photo of her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, outside Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Elaine Franz died Nov. 10, one day before her 78th birthday, after contracting COVID-19.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_23724 Nurse Jessica Franz leaves the Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Franz, 39, is celebrating without her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday.
US_Viruus_Ourbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_46727 Kara McKlemurry writes Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic.
Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_78851 Evelyn Maysonet, 53, looks on as food is provided by Weber-Morgan Health Department Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ogden, Utah. Maysonet has been isolating with her husband and son in their Ogden home since all three tested positive for COVID-19 over a week ago. None of them have been able to leave home to buy groceries so Maysonet said they were thrilled to receive the health department's delivery.
US_Virus_Outbreak_Altered_Thanksgiving_46727 Kara McKlemurry writes Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic.
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Vivian Zayas can’t keep herself from scrolling through photos of last Thanksgiving, when her mother stood at the stove to make a big pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

That was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before it claimed the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.

The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, and putting her mother’s walker in its place.

“It’s a painful Thanksgiving. You don’t even know, should you celebrate?” asked Zayas. “It’s a lonely time.”

The family is left with “an empty chair at the table forever,” another daughter, Alexa Rivera, said Thursday.

Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Turkey and pies will still come out of ovens, football will still be on TV, families will still give thanks and have lively conversations about politics. But this holiday has been utterly altered after months filled with sorrows and hardships: Many feasts are weighed down by the loss of loved ones; others have been canceled or scaled back with the virus surging.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become a fixture at dinner tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers are helping at soup kitchens or community centers. A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can’t go to the store. A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.

“The holidays make it a little harder,” said Harriet Krakowsky, an 85-year-old resident of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York who misses the big Thanksgiving celebrations of years past and has lost neighbors and friends to the virus. “I cry, but I get over it. We have to go on.”

On any normal Thanksgiving Day, Kara McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their Clearwater, Florida, home to one of two places: his family’s home in another part of the state or her family’s house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits. When her in-laws offered to stop by, the couple said no.

She and her husband didn’t want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Not everyone followed McKlemurry’s example. Millions of Americans bought tickets to fly somewhere for the holiday, crowding airports despite pleas from officials to avoid travel and gatherings.

Still, McKlemurry, 27, wanted to do something unique to mark this unusual holiday — something to let everyone know that she and her husband still feel blessed this year.

So, a week before Thanksgiving, armed with colored pens and stickers of owls with scarves, she hand wrote notes of gratitude to every member of the family.

“We’re so grateful to have you in our lives,” she wrote on a card with a cartoon fox, “even if we can’t actually be together this year for the holidays.”

In the nation’s capital, the convention center is empty unlike in previous years, when volunteers have worked together to serve a meal to about 5,000 people. In the era of social distancing, the sponsored event had to be reimagined.

Ahead of the holiday, organizers delivered to 20 nonprofits 5,000 gift bags, each with winter clothing accessories, hand sanitizer and a mask, and 5,000 boxes that included a turkey sandwich with condiments, a side potato salad, a cookie and utensils.

From start to finish, Thanksgiving is different this year for Jessica Franz, a nurse who works the graveyard shift at Olathe Medical Center, in a Kansas City suburb.

For one, Franz, 39, is celebrating without her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday. In previous years, her mother-in-law, who was Mennonite, would lay out a spread for her children and grandchildren. At Franz’s work, in a typical year, co-workers would bring food for a potluck.

None of that is happening this year.

The family is shifting the festivities to Zoom and FaceTime. It’s been hard for her daughters — ages, 2, 8 and 11. Her middle daughter was exposed to the coronavirus at school and is quarantined until Dec. 3, and her oldest daughter is struggling with the concept of a scaled-back holiday.

“We had a good conversation that was, ‘This year may be different, and that’s OK. It is one year. If things are different this year and that means we get to see all the rest of our family next year, it is OK,’” said Franz, who has personally cared for patients dying of coronavirus.

The Thanksgiving gathering at David Forsyth’s home in Southern California, meanwhile, comes with a uniquely 2020 feel: rapid virus tests at the door to decide who gets inside.

The kit costs about $1,000 for 20 tests, each of which involve pricking a finger and putting a drop of blood on a tray. Ten minutes later the results either show someone is negative, has antibodies or is positive.

Normally, about 15 to 20 people attend the family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Channel Islands Harbor. But this year, it will only be eight of them: Forsyth, his wife, her four adult sons and the partners of two of them.

His wife started cooking Tuesday. She’s planning a cold cucumber soup for a starter and bunch of appetizers for the early afternoon meal. The sons are bringing side dishes. Turkey and the fixings are the main course. Champagne may be cracked.

Forsyth hasn’t seen his family much during the pandemic but wanted to save the holiday.

“People are trying to live a normal life,” he said. “And, you know, with the second wave coming now, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared.”

Kerry Osaki longs to see his now-grown children, without masks, and hug them. But instead he and his wife are celebrating just the two of them after their traditions were upended.

Osaki’s 93-year-old mother, Rose, who lived with the couple in Orange County in California, died from the virus after all three got sick.

With his mother gone, Osaki, 67, and his cousin decided to pass on the family’s annual Thanksgiving get-together. His wife, Lena Adame, typically spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives — but some had seen virus cases at their workplaces, so the couple decided to skip that, too.

“It’s just been a long, rough and sometimes sad year,” he said.

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet stepped out of her home Tuesday morning to find boxes overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. She has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19.

None of them has been able to leave to buy groceries, so they were thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery — and the chance to cherish the things that matter most.

“As long as you have a life and you’re still alive, just make the best of it with you and your family,” Maysonet said.

___

Associated Press journalists Tamara Lush, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Sophia Eppolito, Amy Taxin and John Minchillo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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