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Published on November 09, 2020

Start Planning Now for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

What does Thanksgiving look like during COVID-19? Should people get together for a meal? Is it safe to go visit grandparents or people not in your safe bubble?

Get answers to these questions and more from Infection Prevention Medical Director Cynthia Snider, MD, MPH, in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.

How can I safely host a Thanksgiving dinner at my house?

“It really depends on how much risk somebody is willing to take. I think the lowest risk that people can have is really celebrating with those that you live with, and that if you are wanting to still share that celebration with your extended family members to consider doing it virtually.”

“I think one thing that is in our favor is that it's still relatively warm for this time of year, and so to celebrate outdoors, and still have maybe a few more family members over and stay at least six feet away… I think that provides less risk than having an intimate dinner with other family members in a house that's maybe not as well ventilated. “

What should people do to minimize risk if they are still planning to celebrate together? Should they self-quarantine prior to gathering?

“I would say yes, I would say definitely quarantine and even consider getting tested 3 to 4 days before the event. By quarantining, you're reducing your risk that you’ll introduce [COVID-19] to your family members that may be more vulnerable to COVID-19.”

“It’s still very important to be wearing a mask, especially if you are within six feet of somebody or if you're going to be in a in a place that's not well ventilated. I believe you can make some changes in the house by keeping your windows open, possibly your doors depending on what the weather is like. You really want to increase air circulation, ventilation where you're having your celebration, and then really minimizing the people who are within six feet of each other, not wearing masks, so spacing out at least six feet where people will be eating.” 

“And then also, families that are having a college student coming home - I think it would be very important for them to get tested before getting home.”

Should you plan to quarantine for 14 days after gathering together to celebrate Thanksgiving?

“I think that the bigger your celebration, the more chances that you're going to encounter somebody that has COVID-19. I think the part that's really difficult is that when somebody develops COVID-19, they can be mildly symptomatic or have no symptoms, and yet still transmit the virus to somebody else. So by the time somebody develops symptoms, they may have already had Thanksgiving dinner with you and have exposed everybody. So when somebody is meeting or having a gathering with folks that they don't live with, quarantining afterwards. could also make sense.” 

How can we minimize risk while eating a Thanksgiving meal?

“I would designate one person to be putting all the portions out. You really want to minimize that potluck that many people are used to for Thanksgiving, and it's best that the one person portions the plates and then also making sure you have hand hygiene stations, people are sanitizing their hands before and after they touch any other utensils. And then also when it comes to beverages, especially if you are having more alcoholic beverages, it can decrease your awareness of your use of wearing a mask or talking, becoming a close talker or maybe singing or yelling. We know having more excitable activities like singing and yelling… can spread more um COVID-19 virus into the air.”

What if someone at the gathering doesn’t wear a mask or practice other COVID-19 safety measures?

“Probably like politics, not everybody in the same family believes in the same school of thought. And that is a very big risk that we're taking if you have somebody that doesn't really believe in masking and they're just uh going about their daily business. There's a good chance that they could contract COVID-19 from the community and then impart it to your Thanksgiving party. And if that's the case, I think it's best to discuss ahead of time the expectations of the dinner that you're having and that at celebration that you want to keep everybody as safe as possible. And then if somebody decides they're not comfortable following those recommendations and masking to protect everybody, then maybe consider saying let's do it next year when it may be safer.”

Start Planning Now for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

2 Your Well-Being

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Tune in to WFMY News 2 every Monday to watch health segments on a variety of wellness topics.