Texas Senator Ted Cruz came under hot water for posting an insensitive Thanksgiving meme while coronavirus cases soar and death tolls mount. Morgues in the state are overflowing with COVID victims, so much so that a team from the National Guard was mobilized to “provide mortuary affairs support” because the state government was not able to handle the staggering amount of dead bodies. There were also thousands affected by the pandemic lined up outside a food bank. And yet the Senator, instead of addressing the situation responsibly, chose to post a “war on Thanksgiving” meme.
The controversial tweet featured an illustration of a turkey with the words “come and take it,” underneath, basically daring someone to keep him from celebrating Thanksgiving and eating his fill of turkey.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 22, 2020
To which people replied:
It's not about a turkey you goddamn idiot, it's about not accidentally killing your grandma. https://t.co/l7nClzoECf
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) November 22, 2020
Just last Friday the United States set a record for daily incidences in the country with 195,542 confirmed new COVID-19 cases according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. This shattered the previous record set only the day before when the nation had totaled around 188,000 new cases. The CDC has repeatedly warned against Thanksgiving celebrations, especially since cases are rising dangerously rapidly and the risk of contagion is exacerbated by holiday traveling and staying indoors with people outside of your “quarantine bubble”. Public health professionals have urged the public to limit indoor celebrations to people in the same household or same quarantine group, the safest thing besides dispensing festivities altogether.
“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the CDC warned, while pointing out that more than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the US in the previous week.
“We know we’re going to get cases after Thanksgiving,” Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said. “It’s just a question of trying to keep them as minimal as possible.”
Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia University School of Public Health, said that the message from the CDC was “a little late.” “It would have been helpful if we could have been preparing people for months,” she said. “But to a certain degree, we did not imagine back in March that this response would be so horrible that we would be looking at 300,000 or 400,000 deaths by the end of the year.”
It is hard to tell how the CDC’s recommendation will affect people who wish to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. It is early and difficult to speculate if it will change much people’s holiday plans, since the CDC’s warning did come after many had already made holiday plans and booked travel arrangements. Images and video from airports nationwide seem to suggest that many will still take the risk rather than invest in future Thanksgivings with loved ones by staying home.
“It’s really very concerning because it’s not just what people are doing at the airport,” said Dr. Rasmussen. “It’s also the reason they’re at the airport, which is presumably to go to have in-person meals with their families.”
But of course several conservative and right-wing figures have publicly rejected the health experts pleas and advice, and are misrepresenting their concern as a left-wing attempt to “cancel” Thanksgiving altogether. Which of course makes no sense because everyone likes Thanksgiving. You get an extra weekend day, spend time with loved ones and you get to eat and drink however much you want without judgment. What’s not to love?
Cruz was rightfully criticized for the tweet, with many calling it irresponsible and inconsiderate especially given the alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
Yesterday, the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced that a team from the National Guard had been mobilized to "provide mortuary affairs support" because there are more dead bodies than the state government can handle.
And you play tough guy about a turkey. https://t.co/m4ppaW4ra7
— Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly) November 22, 2020
WARNING: Potentially disturbing.
National Guard troops unload bodies from one of the nine mobile morgue trucks at the El Paso medical examiner’s office.
The soldiers are wearing full PPE. pic.twitter.com/z4BjRsC5Iq
— Keenan Willard (@KeenanKFOX_CBS) November 21, 2020
Just earlier this week El Paso officials had sent out a plea for additional morgue workers to help because the number of people dying from COVID-19 had overwhelmed the county. This prompted the use of jail inmates to help transport the dead bodies.
1.16 million cases of COVID.
11,000 new cases.
They just called in the national guard to El Paso to move bodies.
Hard to imagine greater callousness & disregard for human life. https://t.co/1zjQEEDgW0
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) November 22, 2020
This is the Senator’s home state *this weekend* as the National Guard & jail trustees load tractor trailers with bodies.
Twitter isn’t real life. Memes aren’t legislation.
— Gregg Favre (@GreggFavre) November 22, 2020
Others, including Democratic Rep.-elect Cori Bush, condemned Cruz for focusing on superficial things like his Thanksgiving celebrations when thousands of Texans that were hard-hit by the pandemic were waiting in line for hours outside a Dallas food bank.
Thousands of cars lined up to collect food in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend, stretching as far as the eye can see. pic.twitter.com/xLFGOcBkPK
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 16, 2020
I hope this is a legitimate offer to the 25,000 people who were lined up at a food bank in your state last week. Or to the Texas National Guard helping El Paso with morgue overflow.
You’re on a paid vacation while your constituents are starving and dying. https://t.co/GSwcDpn89w
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 22, 2020
there's a 2 mile long line of cars waiting at a Food Bank in Dallas and the Texas National Guard was called up to deal with morgue overflow in El Paso but this is the mountain the Senator from Texas chooses to die on https://t.co/mgm5zp41Sc
— Matt Oswalt (@MattOswaltVA) November 22, 2020
Of course the right is focusing on fake culture wars while millions of people that voted for them literally cannot afford to even buy a turkey this year. https://t.co/oQaKLbLny7
— 🌽🌽Erica, the white trash socialist🌽🌽™️ (@herosnvrdie69) November 22, 2020
One reason we have 256K dead from a preventable disease in the United States is politicians more interested in trolling rather than governing https://t.co/eixgUnOqwS
— Don "Big Chooch" Moynihan (@donmoyn) November 22, 2020
What do you think about the tweet? Was the backlash warranted?