Don’t be a turkey! Plan a safe Thanksgiving

Ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means holidays will look different, but you can still celebrate!

Volunteers prepare individual Thanksgiving meals for seniors in Hawthorne, N.J., on Nov. 3, 2020. With a fall surge of coronavirus infections gripping the U.S., many Americans are forgoing tradition and getting creative with celebrations. (AP Photo/Kathy Young)
Volunteers prepare individual Thanksgiving meals for seniors in Hawthorne, N.J., on Nov. 3, 2020. With a fall surge of coronavirus infections gripping the U.S., many Americans are forgoing tradition and getting creative with celebrations. (AP Photo/Kathy Young) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As with most events, we should expect Thanksgiving to look different this year due to COVID-19.

Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a critical care medicine specialist with Cleveland Clinic, said gatherings should be kept small and reminds us that family settings have the potential for loved ones to unknowingly spread coronavirus.

“Any gathering with family members has the risk of infecting any of them, and of course, the more vulnerable are more likely to end up very ill needing one of us in the ICU,” he said. “So no gathering is totally safe unless it’s just really with the people under your own roof.”

If you do decide to plan a small get together with immediate family, it’s important to know what your guests are doing in their day-to-day lives, so you can gauge the risk they’ll bring to the dinner table.

For example, college students and school-age children who are attending classes in-person may fall into a higher risk category of being carriers of COVID-19.

You’ll also want to consider someone’s workplace and personal life, including whether COVID-19 precautions, like masking, are enforced and followed.

If your guests are traveling, you should keep an eye on the COVID-19 case numbers in their area to determine their risk level.

If possible, high-risk guests should quarantine for 10 to 14 days before attending your event.

When a quarantine isn’t possible, wearing a mask during the gathering is recommended.

These measures may be a tough sell for your loved ones, but protecting them can help ensure they’ll be at the dinner table long after the pandemic is gone.

“The patients I’ve had, who have been at other family gatherings, like weddings, and have gotten sick, there’s just been a tremendous amount of guilt that’s left on the people hosting the event,” said Khabbaza, “I don’t think you’ll ever regret being extra cautious in the middle of a pandemic. The regret can only occur if a loved one gets very sick as a result of your gathering.”

In warmer climates, gathering outdoors can reduce virus transmission risk. However, it’s important to remember that social distancing is still necessary outside, so be sure your guests are sitting 6 feet apart.

Khabbaza reminds us the safest gatherings this Thanksgiving are either virtual or with the people living in your home.

New CDC guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently released updated guidance on holiday gathering ahead of Thanksgiving.

The CDC agreed that the lowest risk is simply celebrating Thanksgiving in your own home with members of your household and/or virtually with extended family.

But for those attending a gathering, the CDC offered some ways to celebrate more safely:

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

And for the big family shopping binge this year? Try logging on instead of heading out.

  • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
  • Use contactless services for purchased items, like curbside pick-up.
  • Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others.

Other good ideas for gatherings include preparing your favorite traditional dishes and delivering them to family without having contact or participate in a gratitude activity, like sharing what you’re grateful for with family and friends.

For more on the CDC recommendations, click here.