The days leading up to Thanksgiving included the annual flurry of shopping as Durango prepared for the traditional meal. But on Thanksgiving Day, the city was quiet.
Americans agonized over how to celebrate while public health officials urged them to avoid large gatherings as COVID-19 cases rise nationally – and in La Plata County. Durango lost some annual events this year, like the city’s Community Thanksgiving event, but community members still turned up for the drive-thru alternative at Manna soup kitchen.
“It was great. I’m still winding down,” said Ann Morse, director of the soup kitchen.
The soup kitchen served 478 free grab-and-go Thanksgiving meals Thursday. Community organizations, such as Compañeros and the Neighbors in Need Alliance, took bulk packages to deliver to places like the homeless shelter and low-income housing complexes.
“The community has been so supportive through everything that’s happened in the last six-plus months, but I’ve really seen an outpouring of support in the last couple of weeks,” Morse said.
On Main Avenue, the occasional group of people strolled past closed stores. Parking lots at the Durango mall and local restaurants were empty. A lone juggler performed his tricks in Buckley Park, with no audience.
Since Halloween, La Plata County has seen more COVID-19 cases than it did in the previous seven months combined. The total case count as of Thursday in La Plata County was 1,290.
Because of rising cases, the county implemented stricter public health restrictions Nov. 20, which prompted restaurants to halt indoor dining and limited social gatherings to one household.
Health officials are concerned holiday celebrations will increase exposures to the coronavirus. National news media warned that millions of Americans planned to travel this week to their holiday gatherings, ignoring public health orders.
In Durango, a sparse but steady stream of traffic rolled into town on U.S. Highway 160. The parking lot at DoubleTree Hotel was about half full, but others, like Super 8 and Durango Downtown Inn, were nearly full.
Grocery stores were bustling on Thanksgiving, and in the days leading up to it.
“We’ve been busy, but it’s busy most years this time of year,” said Jenny, an Albertsons employee who declined to give her last name or job title. “We’re not out of any items, but I think turkeys have been hard to get in.”
Natural Grocers and Walmart closed for the holiday, but Durango Natural Foods Co-Op saw steady traffic.
“Eggnog has been going fast,” said Madison Root, assistant manager at the co-op. “There’s been a pumpkin shortage, but we’ve been OK the whole time.”
Dairy products have been in short supply for weeks, including whole milk and heavy whipping cream. The store had no shortages in produce but sold out of turkeys, he said.
“This year, we definitely had a spike in sales last week, which is a little peculiar,” Root said, adding that people normally do their holiday shopping in the days before Thanksgiving, not the week before. “This week we saw about the same volume of sales that we usually would during this time of the year.”
For Manna, the main message was one of thankfulness.
“I could cry,” Morse said. “... It’s because of the community that we have these resources that we can distribute and make sure that everybody can get something. I’m just really thankful for that.”