Big celebrations are out. Traveling, for the most part, is off the table. And though you may be used to setting large tables for holidays gatherings, you may be limited to celebrating Thanksgiving with your immediate family this year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, recently told Yahoo News, “I think we need to realize things might be different this year, particularly if you want to have people who are going to be flying in from a place that has a lot of infection — you’re going to an airport that might be crowded, you’re on a plane, and then to come in — unless you absolutely know you’re not infected — there are many people who are not going to want to take that risk.”
Fauci added that his family is making adjustments, too. His three daughters who live in different states won’t be visiting him this Thanksgiving.
Though you likely won’t be able to carry out Thanksgiving traditions as you normally do, that doesn’t mean you have to let this holiday come and go without celebration. Last month, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on how to celebrate a safe, socially distant Thanksgiving during COVID-19.
Here’s how the CDC assesses the risk level for Thanksgiving activities:
• A small dinner with the people in your household
• A virtual dinner with family and friends
• Preparing food for family and neighbors (especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who are social distancing), and delivering it to them without person-to-person contact
• Shopping online rather than in person on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
• Watching sports events, parades and movies at home
• A small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
• Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people are taking COVID-19 safety precautions like using hand sanitizer, wearing masks and maintaining social distance
• Small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place
• Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving
• Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
• Attending crowded parades
• Using alcohol or drugs
• Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household
Based on CDC guidelines, here are a few examples on how to host a lower, moderate or higher risk Thanksgiving celebration this year.
Low risk: Virtual Thanksgiving dinner
From happy hours to wedding receptions, we’ve all gotten used to replacing in-person gatherings with hangouts via Zoom. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party is the safest and most highly recommended option that CDC has to offer.
Start planning your virtual celebration by organizing a start time with family and/or friends to eat over Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. Don’t be afraid to maintain traditions of the past. Just because you can’t go outside and play a game of family football, that doesn’t mean you can’t all go around the Zoom room and share with each other what you’re grateful for – because even if you can’t be together in person, there’s still plenty of reasons to be thankful (your health and a good WiFi connection, to name a few).
Moderate risk: Host a small outdoor meal
If eating with your housemates or having a virtual Thanksgiving isn’t going to cut it, the CDC suggests hosting an outdoor meal with a small group of family or friends who live in your community.
Yes, it might be cold outside. But setting up tables in a backyard or picnic area will make it easier to stay distant from others. To take safety precautions to the next step, it’s a good idea to portion out a dish into separate containers to avoid a buffet style meal. Avoid sharing drinks and using your utensils to dip into someone else’s plate. If you have people coming in from out of town for this get together, it wouldn’t hurt for them to get tested beforehand.
And of course, wear a face mask as much as you can.
High risk: Traveling for Thanksgiving
Needless to say, traveling elsewhere for Thanksgiving is at the top of the CDC’s “high risk” category. If you insist on traveling to see family this holiday season, please keep these travel health and safety tips in mind:
Drive, don’t fly. Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for air travel. The Transportation Security Administration screened a record-breaking 26 million passengers over the holiday in 2018. Though that high number isn’t expected this November, it’s still safer to avoid airports during the pandemic.
Pack snacks. Avoid eating at restaurants and rest stops at all costs.
Quarantine before you leave. If possible, quarantine yourself before starting your road trip. Depending on the distance you’re traveling, it may be difficult to avoid interactions with people in public places (gas stations, rest stops, etc.) Quarantining for two weeks will help ensure that you are not infected and will not endanger family and friends.
Take a COVID-19 test when you arrive. This can be done at many drug stores.
What if I live alone?
If you live alone and do not feel comfortable traveling or being at a small gathering with friends, we don’t blame you. But we also know that can make for a rather disheartening Thanksgiving, and our mental health has already taken a toll this year.
Instead of feeling down about spending this holiday alone, consider doing something for others. Make your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and safely pass them off to family and friends nearby.
You can deliver dishes in a way that doesn’t involve contact, such as dropping a pie at their door. And, as an added bonus, you get to keep some sweet treats to yourself.
Thanksgiving will be difficult this year. But take heart in knowing that staying distant and taking precautions will be worth it in the long run.