Celebrating Thanksgiving Amidst a Pandemic? Here's How to Do So Safely.

In past years, Thanksgiving has been a time to reconnect with friends and family over heaps of mashed potatoes and slices of roasted turkey. When sitting side by side, passing around homemade dishes, and sharing stories, there are overwhelming feelings of warmth, unity, and gratitude. 

This year, the holiday may look a bit different. 

COVID-19 has forced us to modify our traditions throughout 2020, and Thanksgiving is no exception. But since the holiday is one of the busiest travel days of the year, there is increased concern about the spread of the virus. 

Let’s look at the CDC guidelines and talk turkey about what you and your family can do to mitigate this spread.

  1. 1. Guests

    Family cooking together

    Tackling the guest list can be tough this year, especially if you usually have a few older relatives or a large number of people at your feast. When thinking about who to invite, it’s important to consider the number of households that would be in attendance. A household could be comprised of roommates, family members, or anyone who shares the same living space as you. While the CDC does not have a limit or a recommended number of attendees for gatherings, the riskiness of the get-together is elevated with each additional household. 

    To lower this risk, the CDC says that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is just with those in your own household.

    If you plan on inviting people from outside your household, it’s important to consider the certain levels of risk that they may have or may bring. People with these conditions, like cancer and asthma, may be at an increased risk. 

    Additionally, if someone is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or has been recently in contact with someone who has had COVID-19, they are advised to refrain from in-person gatherings. 

  2. 2. Food

    holiday dinner buffet at home

    For many families, a Thanksgiving meal is a patchwork of various side dishes and desserts made in different homes. Even though it’s a treat to indulge in some of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, you may just have to wait until next year (unless you want to ask her for the recipe and try to make it yourself). The CDC says that there is, “no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19,” but someone could still contract COVID-19, “by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it” and then touching their mouth or nose. 

    To reduce the number of shared surfaces that are touched, it's recommended that you bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils if you plan on spending the holiday with those outside of your household. 

    Even if you spend Thanksgiving with those in your own household, it doesn’t hurt to implement other sanitary precautions by disinfecting shared surfaces.

  3. 3. Travel

    As previously mentioned, Thanksgiving is a huge travel holiday, but those numbers could be dropping off this year. 

    A recent Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study found that only 28 percent of people expected to travel for the holidays, including both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the same survey, 53 percent said they had traveled for the holidays last year.

    If you’re part of that 28 percent, be sure that you adhere to social distancing guidelines, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently. You should try to follow these guidelines anyway, but it’s absolutely imperative that you do so at airports, bus stops, or other public locations. 

    You can also view this resource to consider how risky your mode of transportation may be and look at more specific ways to stay safe. 

In a socially starved society, it can be difficult to resist the temptation of family, friends, and food. But by abiding by the CDC guidelines, it is still possible to achieve the feelings of warmth, unity, and gratitude again this year.