Six tips for Thanksgiving: How to celebrate the holiday safely during the pandemic
The holiday season is upon us and we feel the need to be close to family, but gathering with people increases the chance of spreading or catching the coronavirus. Precautions should be taken for family members and friends who may be vulnerable.
Here are six steps to help keep your holiday celebrations a little safer:
One: Celebrate at home
The safest way to celebrate is at home with your immediate household. In multiple interviews, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has expressed concern that holiday celebrations could further increase transmission rates of the coronavirus. He advises Americans forgo their big, traditional holiday plans.
There are several options for you to connect with family for a virtual holiday dinner. Experts suggest using Zoom, Skype, Teams or Google Meet to stay connected.
CDC recommends no traveling for Thanksgiving
Holiday travelers risk COVID-19 exposure if they travel through airports, train stations and gas stations, which in turn can spread to family members you are visiting.
Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager says, "We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel.”
Two: Keep gatherings small
For those who want the traditional holiday dinner with friends or family, it's best to keep the gathering small. In a recent study, researchers found homes are now the main source for COVID-19 transmissions. Invite only those who you know in your social bubble, those who share similar pandemic-related safety behaviors. And ask if anyone has had any recent health issues before they come over. Some states have restricted the number of people who can gather in one place. Family members might assume that their loved ones are not infected simply because they know them well.
Three: Mask, 6-feet and hand hygiene
If people outside your immediate family are visiting, remember these three things: Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. People without symptoms of COVID-19 may be able to spread the disease.
Mercedes Carnethon, vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, encouraged people to wear masks and maintain social distance into the holiday season.
"We have to sustain this level of vigilance at this time, and it’s very hard over the holidays," she said. "As I think about not seeing my family, it's really hard. But that chance can be a real gamble – almost a Russian roulette."
Four: Limit people in the kitchen
Reduce the number of people preparing the holiday foods in the kitchen. Those with unwashed hands, which may contaminate surfaces, should be kept out of the kitchen. Limit food servers to one or two people and have them wear masks when handing out food. Try single-use items for salt and pepper, butter or dressings. And make sure your guests wash their hands before dinner.
Five: Take it outside
Most homes don't recirculate indoor air quickly, and respiratory droplets or aerosol particles can land on tabletops, chairs, door handles and other objects people frequently touch. The CDC suggests having a few windows open to help ventilate rooms. This may raise the heating bill, but will lower the risks of spreading the virus. If weather permits, take the gathering outside. Space heaters or fire pits can help keep things warm.
Six: Shorten the visit
To reduce the amount of time people may be exposed to a possible infected person, it's best to keep your visit short.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, Jayme Fraser, Adrianna Rodriguez, Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY; Marcia Greenwood, USA TODAY Network; SOURCE CDC; USA TODAY research