For many, the novel coronavirus pandemic has been isolating.
It’s caused a great deal of stress, resulting in job loss, loneliness, and uncertainty for Americans nationwide.
And while holiday gatherings may present an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants people to proceed with caution.
Now, the experts aren’t suggesting that families scrap their Thanksgiving plans altogether. However, they are recommending that we modify the way we celebrate to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Is the Pandemic Getting Worse?
While the country is moving in a promising direction, curating a new COVID-19 Task Force and making great headway on a vaccine, public health leaders say we can expect a surge this winter.
Already, we can see a surge in the Midwest. As temperatures cool, this may well worsen—and household gatherings are a significant contributor to the spike in cases.
So while there’s no simple answer regarding whether the pandemic is getting “worse,” it’s important to be thoughtful. And the lowest risk for contracting or spreading the virus is to celebrate Thanksgiving at home with members of your own household.
Note: If you’re missing friends or extended family, you do have the option to celebrate virtually. To connect with non-household loved ones and neighbors, you may also choose to prepare holiday food and deliver it contactless.
Of course, some are still going to host or attend small gatherings with people they don’t live with. The CDC has put together a list of suggestions to mitigate risks while doing so, and we’re summarizing them for you here.
Please note that these considerations are designed to supplement, and not replace, your state, local, or tribal health and safety regulations.
Key Considerations for Hosting or Attending a Holiday Gathering
Whether you’re hosting or attending an event, it’s important to review the COVID-19 infection rates where each guest lives on local health department websites. Be mindful of what you find.
Regardless, hosts will want to limit the number of attendees they invite into their homes. Ideally, people from different households should be able to remain no fewer than 6 feet apart at all times. (A reminder that this means no handshakes or hugs for those who do not live with you.)
Moreover, while cooler temperatures make this difficult, outdoor events are preferable. If you’re in a cold-weather area and do need to gather indoors, you’ll want to increase ventilation by opening windows and doors, or by putting central air or heating on continuous circulation.
I don’t think we have to remind you that masks and touchless garbage cans are a good thing here. Unless you’re celebrating alone with members of your household, face coverings should be worn at all times when guests aren’t eating or drinking.
Tips for Safely Handling Food and Beverages This Thanksgiving
While there’s no evidence that handling food is associated with the direct spread of COVID-19, it is possible a person can contract the virus indirectly by handling food or beverages. (This would only occur if the individual touches food, packaging, or utensils with the virus on them, and then goes on to touch their face.)
Again, while this isn’t a common way the virus is spread, it’s still important to handle food and drinks safely this holiday season. Here are some tips for doing just that:
· Encourage guests to bring their own food and beverages instead of hosting a potluck-style gathering.
· Wear a mask while preparing or serving food to people outside your household.
· Designate one person to serve the food in order to keep multiple people from handling the serving utensils.
· Ensure all attendees store their masks safely while eating and drinking. (Placing the face covering in a paper or mesh bag will help to keep it clean and dry.)
· Limit the people going into and out of the kitchen, or approaching the grill, in order to minimize contact with the food before it’s served.
· Avoid buffets and crowded drink stations.
Frequent handwashing is vital here as well. You’ll want to make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing or serving food, and after they eat or drink.
If soap and water aren’t easily accessible, guests should use hand sanitizer made with at least 60% alcohol.
What to Do if You Think You’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19
Worried, after the holiday, that you were exposed to the coronavirus at a gathering or during travel?
You’ll want to quarantine and protect others you might have come in contact with by:
· Staying home for 14 days from the time you were last in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
· Keeping a safe distance from others, including members of your household (who should be in quarantine as well).
· Monitoring for fever (above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), cough, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
· Getting tested for COVID-19. Even if the results come back negative, you should still quarantine for 14 days from the time you were last exposed to the virus.
· Avoiding travel until 14 days from your last possible exposure. (Be aware that symptoms may appear between two and 14 days of exposure.)
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms within two weeks of your holiday event or celebration, or if you test positive for COVID-19, please be sure to practice contact tracing. Notify the host and others who attended the gathering, along with anyone else with whom you might have come in contact during this time.
What’s the Verdict on Thanksgiving in 2020?
Again, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to stay home with members of your household. Virtual celebrations with non-household loved ones are recommended.
Of course, the CDC recognizes that some people will choose to gather. The above tips will help to mitigate risk in the event that you decide to host or attend a gathering with people who don’t live with you.
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