"Zoomsgiving" and crowdless parades: Thanksgiving 2020 has families experiencing many firsts

Up to 50 million Americans were expected to travel this Thanksgiving, according to AAA, even as public health officials urged people to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, this year's holiday is sure to be one-of-a-kind for many.

This very different Thanksgiving morning started in a food line for thousands snaking through a parking lot in Anaheim, California.

"It's been tough. You know, there's not enough money sometimes to eat and things," said Adamaris Celis, who was waiting in her car.

It's a scene playing out in cities coast to coast as millions struggle with the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus.

"I need everything," said a man in Houston, who did not want to provide a name. "I've been out of work since November of last year. I have nothing at home. Seriously, nothing."

Samantha Halpern is having her first "Zoomsgiving." The Philadelphia transplant nurse told her parents to stay in St. Louis.

"They canceled two hours before their flight," said Halpern. "It just did not feel safe whatsoever."

They're not alone. A study conducted by OnePoll for Asurion Home+ found 72% of Americans said they planned to celebrate the holidays virtually. The same survey, which 2,000 people participated in, found 93% of those planning to gather virtually cited the recent rise in COVID-19 as a factor.

But millions of people did travel. Wednesday was the busiest at airports since mid-March, and nearly six million have flown since Friday.

"I'm not going to stop living because of somebody being afraid of some disease," said flyer Quentin Ellis.

Fearing super-spreading holiday celebrations, Pennsylvania banned alcohol sales at bars and restaurants Wednesday night. But people, many without masks, packed a restaurant in Florida hosting a Thanksgiving eve party with a live band. A crowd was also seen at a large outdoor party in Los Angeles.

Retailers and malls would normally be gearing up for huge Black Friday crowds. But 74% of shoppers plan to buy online this weekend to avoid crowds, according to a poll by Deloitte. Online grocery orders soared 560% last week, Adobe Analytics reported.

Some traditions live on but with some changes. For the first time in its 94-year history, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was crowdless and staged as a TV-only event.

Even before Thanksgiving, doctors have been worried about what the coming weeks will bring leading up to the next set of holidays when Americans will want to come together and celebrate.

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    Kris Van Cleave is a congressional correspondent for CBS News based in Washington, D.C.