In stark contrast to the Thanksgiving message by the incoming president Joe Biden, who called for a scaling down of the celebration, the outgoing president Donald Trump has called in a proclamation for Americans to “gather” for the holiday.
The final line of the annual Thanksgiving proclamation, issued by the White House press secretary's office on Wednesday evening, read: "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 message from the White House, first reported by CNN, goes directly against the repeated advisories issued by government’s own public health experts, who have warned that Thanksgiving gatherings are likely to significantly contribute to the US's growing number of Covid-19 cases.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against travelling for Thanksgiving as a means of preventing further spread of the virus.
"We're seeing exponential growth in cases," CDC Covid-19 incident manager Dr Henry Walke said. "The opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time."
"There is so much community transmission all over the United States that the chances of you encountering somebody that has Covid-19 is actually very, very high, whether it’s on an airplane, at the airport or at a rest area," said Dr Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist for New York City hospitals.
Dr Anthony Fauci, one of America's top infectious diseases experts, said travel might serve to act as a "surge superimposed on a surge".
In total, the US has recorded 12.7 million coronavirus infections and 260,000 deaths, official figures show.
Health officials reported 176,439 new cases on 24 November, down slightly from 179,067 in the previous 24 hours.
Though presidential proclamations on holidays are typically perfunctory statements put out by the White House, President Trump is known to have frequently flouted the pandemic-related advisories of his own public health officials.
He hosted a large gathering at the White House in September for the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, an event which was later described as a “superspreader” incident by Dr Fauci and others. Several White House officials including the president himself later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.