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Many in NY plan multi-family Thanksgiving gatherings despite Cuomo's pleas

Jon Campbell
New York State Team

ALBANY – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree: Gathering for Thanksgiving with friends and family from outside your household is a bad idea in the COVID-19 era.

Millions of New York residents seem intent on ignoring their advice.

A recent Siena College poll showed 41% of New York residents intend on gathering in person for Thanksgiving with people they do not live with, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and increasing infections across the state and country.

A larger share, 52%, said they are not gathering in person with friends or family, while 7% said they were unsure. 

But the results suggest a significant portion of New York's 19 million residents will flout state and federal pleas to forgo multihousehold Thanksgiving dinners this year, which Cuomo has warned will lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections in the weeks following the holiday.

"This year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away," Cuomo said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. 

"As hard as that is to say, and hear, because if I had to predict, you're going to see a significant spike post-Thanksgiving. It is then going to run into the Christmas holidays, and you're going to see these numbers go very high."

COVID-19 on the increase

A recent Siena College poll showed 41% of New York residents intend on gathering in person for Thanksgiving with people they do not live with.

Siena polled a selection of New York residents from Nov. 4 through 10, a period in which the state's daily COVID-19 infections increased from about 3,000 to more than 4,000 and the positivity rate increased from 1.6% to 2.4% on a seven-day rolling average.

Since then, the state's COVID-19 numbers have continued to increase, with daily confirmed infections topping 5,000 infections five times from Nov. 11 through 18, according to state data.

The poll suggests New Yorkers understand this holiday season will be different in the COVID-19 era, with 64% saying their Thanksgiving plans will be "very" or "somewhat" different this year. And few seem to be willing to travel: Only 14% said they intend on traveling to visit with family and friends.

But epidemiological experts say mixing households is ill-advised, even if it comes without travel.

"Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving," according to the CDC's Thanksgiving guidance.

No more than 10 people at residences

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned gatherings of more than 10 people at private residences.

In New York, Cuomo has banned gatherings of more than 10 people at private residences, a move meant to combat "living room spread" during the holiday season.

His order, however, has drawn resistance from a number of upstate sheriffs, who say they can't or won't enforce the limit.

It has also drawn activity from fast-moving entrepreneurs: At least two Buffalo-area companies have begun selling stickers and window clings with half of Cuomo's face, which can be positioned in a window to make it look like the governor is peeking in.

One website, ZoomBuffalo.com, called its sticker the "11th guest." Another website, Custom716.com, appeared to briefly sell out of its sticker Thursday night before restocking by Friday morning.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has been consistent in his message, urging New York residents to reconsider their Thanksgiving plans and asserting sheriffs have a duty to carry out his capacity limit order.

"It's your family, it's your home, it's your table. These are all environments where you feel safe and that is the beauty of Thanksgiving," Cuomo said. "I'm at home with my family. I'm in my safe zone. Your safe zone, it's not a safe zone. Your safe zone is dangerous this year."

Siena polled 803 New York residents from Nov. 4 through 10. The poll carries a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, according to Siena.

More:Gov. Andrew Cuomo rips sheriffs for refusing to enforce Thanksgiving gathering limit

More:New York is among states limiting private gatherings to 10 people, but how will it be enforced?

Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.

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