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Biden, Trump plan quiet Thanksgiving celebrations at home as pandemic rages

By Reuters | November 26th 2020 at 15:54:00 GMT +0300

US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and sitting Republican President Donald Trump, like hundreds of millions of Americans, planned quiet Thanksgiving celebrations at home on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the United States.

Former Democratic Vice President Biden was spending the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife Jill have a vacation home. The Bidens were to host daughter Ashley Biden and her husband Dr. Howard Krein for the holiday meal.

This year will be a rare break from the Bidens’ decades-long tradition of gathering with extended family for Thanksgiving, typically on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts. In a pre-Thanksgiving speech on Wednesday, Biden said they had traveled for Thanksgiving for 40 years, except the year after his son Beau died in 2015.

He alluded to that bereavement in the presidential-style address to a nation which has lost more than 260,000 lives to coronavirus.

“I remember that first Thanksgiving, the empty chair, the silence,” Biden said. “It takes your breath away. It’s really hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks.”

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For Republican President Trump, Thursday was a far cry from last year when he made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. There he met with President Ashraf Ghani and served turkey to some U.S. troops before sitting down to eat dinner with them.

Trump often likes to celebrate holidays at his Florida Mar-a-Largo resort but on Thursday he was scheduled instead to remain at the White House. In contrast to Biden, who pleaded with Americans to celebrate the holiday safely by wearing masks and socially distancing, Trump urged Americans to “gather” in his Thanksgiving proclamation.

“I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings,” the president, who recovered from his own case of COVID-19 last month, said in a statement.


Trump has frequently ignored public health warnings and hosted large groups at the White House, with many of his guests refusing to wear masks. In addition to Trump, several other prominent Americans including first lady Melania Trump and members of Congress have tested positive for COVID following such events.

While fewer Americans than normal are expected to travel this year for Thanksgiving, millions still defied pleas from state and local officials and health experts and traveled to family gatherings rather than stay home, despite a spiraling infection rate.

Deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 in a single day on Tuesday for the first time since May, and hospitalizations reached a record of more than 89,000 on Wednesday.

Biden has been pushing ahead with the transition to his new government, and has pledged to prioritize getting a grip on the virus. This week he announced members of his national security team and has promised to announce more appointments, including his economic team, in coming days.

Despite having yet to concede the election, Trump has agreed to let Biden’s transition officially proceed, clearing the way, for example, for Biden to receive high-level intelligence briefings. But the president continues to make unsubstantiated claims over voter fraud, while his legal advisors continue to pursue efforts to overturn the result, with little success.

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