How to Stay Covid-Safe This Thanksgiving

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 26. Oct. 2020

Tips for a covid-safe Thanksgiving.

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If Americans have slowly become acclimated to a much-changed world since the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March, the idea of changing or cancelling your Thanksgiving plans still feels like a hard pill to swallow for many. In normal times, this most cherished of American holidays provides a rare chance for family and friends to come together in one place. However with the virus still very much raging throughout the country, and experts warning that a third wave is imminent as temperatures begin to drop, epidemiologists have cautioned that families must take precautions this Thanksgiving, if they choose to celebrate at all. Indeed during a recent interview on Good Morning America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he had canceled his traditional Thanksgiving get-together this year out of an abundance of caution. With so much information swirling around, it can be hard to decide what’s the best and safest option for you. Below, we’ve answered your top questions on how to handle Thanksgiving this year.

Can I host a Thanksgiving get-together, and who can I invite?

Whether or not it’s safe to get together with others for Thanksgiving will rely on a number of factors. However no matter where you live or how you normally celebrate, chances are you should prepare for a paired-down holiday. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the safest route to take this Thanksgiving is an at-home meal with the immediate members of your household. Anyone living in an area experiencing an increase in infection rates, no matter how low, is especially advised to follow this directive. 

No matter where you live, it’s important to remember that as with any get-together in 2020, the more people there are, the greater the chance of virus transmission. So keep your guest list as small as possible. Experts generally suggest inviting no more than 5 people to your home, but you can always check your local CDC guidelines for the recommended size of gatherings in your area. It’s also important to only invite people who you know practice social distancing and safety guidelines. Additionally, do not get together with anyone that lives in or has traveled through an area with an increasing infection rate in the past two weeks. 

When planning your celebration, it’s also important to remember that any multi-hour indoor gathering inherently presents an increased opportunity for the virus to spread, even if it’s in a seemingly safe place like your home. As a result, anyone who is at heightened risk of suffering adverse symptoms from the coronavirus, including the eldery, immunocompromised or obese, should probably stay home. 

Can I travel?

Any kind of travel inherently presents additional chances for exposure to the virus, and experts caution should be avoided if possible. While initial data has shown that airplanes themselves actually present a very low chance of transmission, airports are filled with communal surfaces and circulating air that present a definitive risk, and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.  

If you do travel by air, try to arrange a 2-week quarantine period at your final destination before your celebrations. Remember that coronavirus has a long incubation period, so without quarantining, you could potentially infect your friends and family even if you feel OK and are testing negative for the virus.

Traveling by car is a safer route, although it’s by no means fool-proof. If you’ll be driving for Thanksgiving, do a little prep beforehand to make sure you limit the amount of times you’ll have to get out of the car on the way. Use the bathroom beforehand, pack snacks so you won’t have to stop at a gas station, and remember to pack gloves and hand sanitizer for pumping gas.

No matter how you get there, if you plan to travel this Thanksgiving make sure to do some research on where you’re going beforehand. No matter how much you miss your family, it’s not worth it to travel to areas that are experiencing high infection levels this Thanksgiving.

How can I make my small get-together more covid-friendly?

If you’ll be hosting people from outside of your household this Thanksgiving, some prep and communication can help make your festivities safer. One of the most important things, as we mentioned before, is to make sure to only invite people you know have been following safety precautions like social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing their hands, and to make sure no one has traveled through an area in the last two weeks with increasing infection rates.

If the weather in your area permits, hosting your Thanksgiving outdoors is another great way to minimize the risk of transmission. This might mean alterations to your normal plans including a shorter celebration than normal, cutting out indoor activities like watching football, and moving up the time of your get-together so you eat in the afternoon, before it gets cold and dark. If it’s gotten too cold in your area to eat outside, make sure your home has as much ventilation as possible.

And while no one wants to be reminded of the pandemic during the holidays, experts stress that you should follow social distancing guidelines at any of your holiday get-togethers, whether it’s inside or outside. This means keeping a six foot distance from others at all times, wearing masks when you’re not eating, and separating guests at the table with an empty seat between them. 

Once you’ve settled on the safety guidelines you’ll be enforcing, make sure to communicate them clearly to all guests beforehand, which will guarantee your best chance that people actually follow them.

There are also some preventative measures guests can also take before the get-together. If it’s possible, have everyone who will be attending quarantine for two weeks before the get-together, or at least try to limit their trips out of the house to mitigate their exposure. Covid-19 tests are also a good idea. However experts stress that even if everyone at your get-together tests negative for coronavirus, they could still very much be infectious, so remember to still practice safety guidelines.

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