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Thanksgiving, 2020 Style

Like most Americans, I love gathering around the Thanksgiving table with friends and family every November to eat turkey, gorge on sweet potatoes and red wine, and celebrate community and closeness.

This Thanksgiving, like just about everything else we do in 2020, will be different. We all need to plan for the safest holiday meal we can.

The Covid-19 public health science tells us that bringing people together indoors without masks can create an environment in which the virus can spread easily from a person who has been infected with the virus, but lacks symptoms, to another person. This known spread has already let to the shutdown of many familiar activities, such as indoor dining, singing in a church or synagogue with other people, and exercising indoors at a health club without wearing a mask. Most of us are aware of these risks, yet some of us may think that our own homes are less risky. While it's easy to understand the feeling that our own house or apartment is safe, once we bring other people into that space, we introduce risk.

How can we plan for a safe Thanksgiving this year?

  1. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to limit the people around your table to those in your household. Eating with those family member and friends in your 'quarantine pod' will not introduce any additional viral risk into your home, so long as you generally follow the rules of washing you hands a lot and masking up outside of your home. This may feel disappointing or lonely to many, but connecting to others outside your household via Zoom or Face Time can help you enjoy being with people who cannot physically come to your home.

  2. The next safest is option is to bring together a small group of people, say 6-10, in an outdoor space. You can eat on your deck or in your yard, or you could create a holiday picnic in an uncrowded park or even on the beach. Cooler weather (as long as the rain stays away) does not have to deter you. You can stay warm at your outdoor meal by wearing layers and warm clothes, and heating your space with outdoor heaters and a fire pit. Guests should mask up when not eating, maintain a 6-foot distance from others outside their pods and keep their hands clean. It's best to avoid shared utensils, so 1-2 people could serve the meal to others and food items that involve a lot of contact, like an onion dip, could be separated by family.

  3. If your meal can only take place indoors, you can reduce risk in this way: all guests should get tested about 10 days before Thanksgiving and then again 2-3 days before Thanksgiving, and everyone should minimize contact with others from that first test until the holiday. Family groups can share their own table, windows should be kept open, if possible, and attendees should wear masks when not eating. Other strategies such as avoiding shared serving pieces and serving foods like individual bar cookies rather than 1 shared apple pie can also minimize risk.

We can celebrate holidays this year if we consider the risks and take the necessary precautions.

I am providing links to additional resources here:

"How Can My College Student Come Home Safely For Thanksgiving," NYTimes

Guidance from the CDC

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