As Thanksgiving approaches, you may be wondering if a safe celebration is even possible in 2020. This year is unlike any we've ever experienced, so Thanksgiving will probably look a bit different, too.
Since it's traditionally a time for family and friends to gather, you may still be considering an in-person event despite the risks linked to COVID-19. While the CDC advises that it's safest to celebrate only with your household, some people will struggle to give up on tradition.
If you're planning to host or attend an in-person gathering, here are some recommendations on how to do so as safely as possible.
Get your flu shot.
COVID-19 isn't the only health threat—it's also still flu season. It's important to get your flu shot if you haven't already. Ask your household and anyone else attending your celebration to do the same. It won’t make you immune to COVID-19, but it will help keep you and your loved ones healthy, reduce the likelihood of any symptom confusion with coronavirus, and help relieve the burden on our healthcare system.
Get tested for COVID-19.
Get tested for COVID-19 at least 3 days before Thanksgiving if you'll be seeing other people, and then limit your exposure to other people as you’re waiting for the results. If you test negative, you'll know you're less likely to inadvertently pass the disease on to your guests. Be sure to ask your guests to do the same.
Although it can be an inconvenience, it's better to be safe than sorry. This is especially important if elderly or immunocompromised people are attending. But this is by no means foolproof— as you can still contract the virus after you are tested. Again, the safest way to include high-risk people in your festivities is to invite them to join virtually.
Set ground rules.
Be smart about the specifics of your celebration, and make sure everyone is on the same page. In terms of the guest list—no guessing! This is not a good year for surprises. Everyone should know who’s coming ahead of time. Everyone should also be in touch about how they’re feeling, travel plans, and testing status. Make it clear that hugging and other physical contact will be restricted. Communication ahead of time on all of this is key.
Keep following COVID-19 risk-reducing behavior.
Good hygiene is critical for food preparation under any circumstances, but it does double duty during a pandemic. Ask everyone to wash their hands regularly. Have plenty of hand sanitizer available for guests to use throughout the event. Make sure you have plenty of space for guests to socially distance and that there is good ventilation throughout (if inside). Everyone should preferably wear face masks except when eating and drinking. If possible, space the seating and eat in staggered shifts so fewer people have their masks off at any one time.
Host outside (if possible).
Weather permitting, host outside. The risk of COVID-19 infection is lower for outdoor gatherings. First, being outside allows more space for guests to sit or stand apart without touching. Second, this is an air-borne disease, so the fresh outdoor air reduces transmission risk by allowing aerosols to dissipate more quickly. Instead of setting up one big table, split seating into smaller parties for each household. If the weather is chilly, put up a canopy and some outdoor heaters to keep guests warm.
Host inside safely (if necessary).
If hosting outside is not possible, there are some precautions you can take to make an indoor event safer. It's best to keep windows open to ensure there is enough ventilation throughout the house and/or use air purifiers. Make sure to space guests at least six feet apart while dining or stagger eating times, having the same households eat together. Either way, it's best to keep your gathering small — ideally, two or fewer households outside of yours.
Ultimately, gathering only with your household or virtually connecting is safest during a pandemic. But if you do plan on gathering with other loved ones this Thanksgiving, do it as safely as possible by following these tips and your local guidelines.