Right about now, in a “normal” year, students and workers would begin to check out from their everyday duties as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. They’d think about eating big turkey dinners and sitting around with relatives from all over.

This year, though, an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases has public health authorities reining in social activities, a move that underscores the continuing spread of a deadly virus 10 months after the pandemic changed almost everyone’s lives.

The government response to increased caseloads has added to frustrations across the Bay Area and beyond just weeks after much of the region began loosening restrictions.

“I’m really getting sick of this,” Santa Clara janitor Ricardo Cruz said Sunday. “It’s complicating everything. We have work, but it’s double the work. We have to basically chase people around while they are putting their hands on everything. It’s exhausting.”

The exhaustion has led to a sort of “COVID fatigue,” with state and county health officials pleading for patience from an antsy, long-confined public as a vaccine comes closer every day.

After months of stay-at-home orders and the slow reopening of public facilities, California and much of the nation appear to be backsliding. Local officials on Friday announced plans to shut down indoor dining — again. The same day, state officials issued an advisory that discourages Thanksgiving travel, giving “home for the holidays” a new meaning.

“We thought it was calming down with everything opening up, but I guess that’s not true,” Miguel Angel Salgado said Sunday outside Arteaga’s Food Center in Santa Clara. “For me, if things stay like this, we’ll be with the virus forever.”

Salgado, 56, said that he has been stranded in California this year because of the virus. He said he has a ticket to fly home to Massachusetts on Dec. 4, but doubts he will make it.

California has reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, with a death toll now over 18,000. Hospitalizations have increased 34.6% in the past two weeks, with intensive care unit hospitalizations up 36.7%.

“We always hope to have positive news, and this isn’t really positive news,” California’s health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday. “This is an important, immediate situation.”

Californians already had scrapped traditional plans for holidays such as Easter, Passover and Ramadan. Many could not attend high school and college graduation ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

Now, the commemorations that mark the end of the year and the promise of spring’s renewal — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year festivities — are being curtailed based on predictions from epidemiologists about how the virus will spread during the winter.

Another celebration — the Hindu festival of Diwali, which typically draws thousands to local temples — took place over the weekend in subdued style, according to those in the community.

Jack Iyer, the treasure at the Sri Siddhi Temple in Fremont, said that hundreds of worshippers normally enter the temple in groups throughout the day to mark the Festival of Lights, a holiday that signifies the triumph of good over evil.

On Saturday, Iyer said, temple officials allowed only 10 people to enter at a time for a quick glimpse of the festival decorations.

“We are torn,” he said. “Some people in the area have opened up regardless of the directives of the county. We don’t want to do that, ” in order to keep everyone safe, he added.

Karuna Jain, of Milpitas, said she is used to having a small gathering for Diwali; her son, a 2016 Olympic table tennis player, has lived in Europe for the last five years. But the novel coronavirus surge impacted Jain and her husband this year, she said, because their daughter did not make it home for the first time in more than two decades.

“Normally I’d go to the temple,” Jain said, “but this year the temple is closed.”

Judith Stacey, who lives alone in Oakland with her dog, said not having a social outlet has been challenging. She has started playing pickleball, a popular racket sport among seniors. But Stacey said she worried that a rainy winter might keep her caged up inside once more.

Iyer, of the Hindu temple, said he was concerned about his children’s mental well-being because of the restriction on activities. His son attends college in Minnesota but is home taking virtual classes. He said his daughter is a high school sophomore.

When they suffer from “cabin fever,” Iyer piles the family into the car to “aimlessly drive around,” he said.

Oakland social worker Joe Mintz said the isolation has increased addictive behaviors among youth.

He added that children are asking him about death more than usual.

“I try to offer kids reassurance that this is something everyone — all the doctors and scientists in the world — are working on because everyone wants to figure this out,” Mintz said. “There’s not much more I can offer other than, ‘Everybody cares.’ ”

Ghaly acknowledged Friday that state officials are asking a lot of the public two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We know that it’s not an easy thing to do, that it creates a hardship, but we know that if we’re gonna get through this really difficult time with surging cases, that these are the important steps,” he said.

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: The reflection of a person wearing a mask is seen in the windows of Arteaga’s Food Center in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: Miguel Angel Salgado stands in front of Arteaga’s Food Center after shopping in the store in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: Peter Measkit, left, puts on a face mask next to Vanessa Acevedo after eating some donuts in the parking lot of Stan’s Donut Shop in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: David Caplan is photographed during an interview in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: David Caplan, right, walks through a parking lot after getting breakfast in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA – NOVEMBER 15: Ricardo Cruz stands near his car after doing laundry in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group)

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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