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How to Have a Safe and Socially Distanced Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to gather with family and friends and remember all that we have to be thankful for. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gathering with friends and family outside of your household is not recommended. Either host a small gathering this year with just family or have a virtual Thanksgiving. It doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate — it may just look a little different this year. If you do have a small in-person gathering, be sure to follow CDC guidelines. Here are five ideas to ensure a safe, fun, and socially distanced Thanksgiving.

Have a small gathering by household. Most importantly, you should limit your gathering to those in your household (that means those who actually live in your house). It is not recommended to gather with those outside of your household, but if that is inevitable, limit the gathering to those in your community (family members, neighbors) who you know have been appropriately socially distanced. Most states are recommending not to gather in groups of more than 10. Ask family members to quarantine for 14 days prior to meeting. For those who can’t join, arrange a way for them to be there virtually through Zoom, Skype, or Facetime.

Eat outside. Lower the chance for transmission over the dinner table by eating outside. Your risk for COVID-19 increases greatly after 15 minutes spent with someone in close proximity inside. Take your dinner into the fresh air — the air outside is always moving, which means it breaks up any aerosols. Give guests blankets or set up heaters in case it’s chilly. If it’s not possible to eat outside, open windows in the house during dinner.

Have one person serve the food. This year, find an alternative option to letting people serve themselves. Having multiple people touching serving utensils increases the risk for spread. Instead, select one person to serve all the food to each person, while wearing a mask, of course. If you must do a buffet setup, give each person a disposable serving spoon that they can use to dish out their food. Use as many single-use items as you can, such as salad dressing and condiment packets, disposable plates, and plasticware.

Find alternative games to play. The pre-dinner tackle football game might be a tradition in your family, but leave it off the table this year. Instead, find ways to play no-contact outdoor games or virtual games instead. Take a walk around the neighborhood, play Hopscotch, or have a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt. Arrange virtual Jeopardy or Family Feud for those who are apart. House Party and Jackbox are two fun apps/websites where you can play virtual games with a group.

Shop online. Instead of heading out at midnight for the Black Friday sales, avoid the crowds and limit the spread by shopping online instead. You can still snag a great deal without having to physically elbow someone out of the way. Plus, with most stores offering curbside and no-contact delivery, you can safely pick up your items the next day without having to worry about interacting with anyone.

Remember, the only real way to ensure there is no risk of transmission is to host a virtual Thanksgiving. Don’t feel bad about asking your family to do so or telling them you don’t feel comfortable attending this year. If this Thanksgiving has to look different for the safety of everyone, it’s OK — there’s always next year. If you’re gathering in person, be sure to follow the CDC rules — wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, wash your hands, and ask anyone who is sick or not feeling well to stay home.

Happy (socially distanced) Thanksgiving!

Cecilia Pearson
Cecilia Pearson


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