Like many other aspects of our daily lives, Thanksgiving will undoubtedly be a lot different this year than in previous years. While the safest bet is to avoid travel and celebrate only with those in your household, we want to empower you with the information you need to weigh risks and make informed decisions for yourself and your family.
To Gather or Not to Gather: No Easy Answers
The virus doesn’t take a holiday, so it’s a good idea to talk now with your family and friends about how to celebrate Thanksgiving. You’ll probably find differing views about how to stay safe. That’s why it’s important to have open and honest conversations about the best way to approach this year’s feast, rather than leaving it to chance.
Assess the Risks of Getting Together With Loved Ones
When talking with friends and family about Thanksgiving plans, consider the following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the levels of risk in gathering with people outside your immediate household:
- Lowest risk: virtual-only activities
- More risk: small outdoor and in-person gatherings where people from different households stay at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, don’t share dinnerware, and come from the same local area (community, town, city or county)
- Higher risk: medium-sized, in-person gatherings where people stay spaced out by at least 6 feet but come together from outside the local area
- Highest risk: large, in-person gatherings where people can’t stay spaced at least 6 feet apart and they travel from outside the local area
It’s also important to remember that the longer interaction with people outside your household lasts, the higher your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and of the virus spreading. Where you live also makes a difference. Follow local rules about the size of gatherings and recognize that the higher the level of community transmission, the greater the risk of infection.
A Virtual Thanksgiving Day
If you or a family member falls into one of the groups at highest risk of complications from COVID-19 — people who are older than 65 and have underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems — a virtual Thanksgiving might be your safest choice.
Instead of crowding around the dinner table, you can stay connected through virtual platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet and Skype. Reminding yourself that social distancing and other coronavirus precautions are the best ways to protect your family and community will make it easier to give thanks for your health this year.
Getting Together in Person
If you choose to get together in person with family or friends for Thanksgiving, consider the following ideas for celebrating safely:
Know the Rate of Community Spread and Invite Guests Accordingly
If you or your guests live in an area where the rate of community spread is high or growing, this may not be the year for a Thanksgiving feast.
Plan for Social Distancing
Get out your tape measure to determine the number of people that can gather and stay at least 6 feet apart.
When you invite guests, be sure to let them know the rules everyone will need to follow. For example, advise guests that they should stay home if they feel sick. Tell guests that everyone will need to wear masks unless they’re eating or drinking and that you’ll expect people to stay socially distant.
You may also want to ask guests to self-isolate as much as possible for the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to reduce risks.
Rather than gathering at the dining room table, move your dinner outside where the risk of transmission is lower, according to the CDC. If you can’t be outside due to space considerations or weather, try to have your Thanksgiving gathering in a large open space. Open windows, if possible, for greater ventilation.
Practice Good Hygiene
Everyone should wash hands often and avoid sharing utensils, food and drinks. You might also consider using disposable tablecloths and dinnerware to allow for easier disinfecting of surfaces after the meal.
Traveling for Thanksgiving
If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 increase, says the CDC. Although you may feel fine and not have any symptoms, you could still spread COVID-19. That means you and your travel companions, including children, could potentially spread COVID-19 to your family and friends at Thanksgiving. Also, remember that, according to the CDC, it may take up to 14 days before you show symptoms of COVID-19.
Before You Travel
If you’re considering traveling for Thanksgiving, ask yourself the following CDC-recommended questions:
- Have I been sick or around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days? Don’t travel if you’ve been sick, and don’t travel with anyone who is sick. The CDC offers guidelines to help you decide when to delay travel.
- Is COVID-19 spreading at my destination? The more cases there are at your destination, the more likely you are to get sick and spread the virus when you return home. You can go to the CDC’s website to check each state’s cases in the past seven days or for travel recommendations for international destinations.
- Is someone I live with at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19? If you get infected while traveling, you could spread the virus to a loved one when you return, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
- Am I at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19? Anyone can get very sick from the virus, but older adults and people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness.
- Does my destination have coronavirus-related requirements or restrictions for travelers? Some destinations require people to, for example, wear masks or stay home for up to 14 days after traveling.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, but your chances of getting the virus also depend on many other factors. For example, how much social distancing and mask usage will you find if you drive or fly? Also, how much time will you be around other people? In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19, the more likely you are to get infected.
Here’s what the CDC says about different modes of travel:
The good news is that most viruses and other germs don’t spread easily on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered on planes. The bad news is that social distancing is tough on crowded planes, and sitting within 6 feet of other passengers, usually for hours at a time, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Airport terminals and security lines also may bring you into close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. In addition, public transportation and ridesharing to and from the airport can increase your risk.
Bus or Train Travel
Travel on buses or trains can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet of other passengers, which may increase the chances of getting sick. To protect yourself, avoid touching surfaces, try to social distance and clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water.
Stops for gas, food and bathroom breaks may put you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.
Traveling in an RV may mean fewer stops for food or bathroom breaks, but staying in RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies at public places may put you in close contact with people who are sick.
Staying Safe This Holiday, No Matter Where You Are
Regardless of whether you stay home, gather with a small group or travel to visit loved ones this Thanksgiving, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that you:
- Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone outside your household
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as phones, sinks, counters, light switches and so on
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, discard the tissue and clean your hands immediately
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings or with people outside your household
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
In addition, be sure to get a flu shot and encourage your family and friends to do the same. The current flu vaccine is the single most effective way to protect you and your family against the flu. Avoiding the flu this season is especially important because the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms and getting both of these contagious respiratory illnesses is dangerous.
Helping You Stay Healthy for Every Holiday
Despite COVID-19, there’s still a lot to be thankful for, this year. And know that we’re always here to support you in body, mind and spirit. Whether you need safe, whole-person care from our experts or the latest news and information, we’re with you every step of the way to help navigate the healthiest path forward.