October 14, 2020
How to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during the COVID-19 pandemic
BY Cynthia DeMarco
Got plans for a big Thanksgiving Day celebration? Not so fast.
Before you send out those feast invitations or make those travel arrangements, keep in mind that there continue to be tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the United States each day, and we’re not anywhere close to achieving herd immunity.
That means the risk of COVID-19 infection is still very real — and should be weighed carefully before you make your Thanksgiving plans.
“We are all ready and eager for life to return to normal,” says Rachel Lynn, M.D. “But 2020 is still nowhere near normal. So, this holiday season is an opportunity to create new traditions, rather than returning to ways of old.”
Keep Thanksgiving celebrations as small as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic
Whether it’s an early morning parade downtown, a "turkey trot" fun run around the neighborhood, or a big family meal followed by some serious couch time, the most anticipated Thanksgiving activities involve large gatherings of people who don’t normally live together.
Unfortunately, that could put you at risk for COVID-19 this year — especially when two of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of the coronavirus continue to be wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
“The best way to stay safe this Thanksgiving is to have a small family gathering with only the people in your immediate household,” says infectious diseases and infection control expert Roy Chemaly, M.D. “Everything — airports, airplanes, gas stations and hotels — tends to be more crowded at this time of year, but you can minimize your exposure to crowds by celebrating at home.”
Find safer ways to enjoy cherished traditions
If you just can’t bear the thought of missing out on certain Thanksgiving traditions, try to find ways to enjoy them more safely.
That could mean doing all of your holiday shopping online, watching even local parades from home on TV, or swapping recipes in advance with extended family members and connecting virtually on the holiday itself.
“Sharing a meal is a powerful bonding experience that many people crave,” notes Catherine Powers-James, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in the Integrative Medicine Center. “This last scenario allows you to do so in a very responsible way, while still savoring the most-cherished flavors of the season together.”
Another option might be to host a small, socially distanced outdoor celebration, especially in areas of the country that continue to enjoy more temperate weather even in late November. This could reduce the risk of both droplet and aerosol transmission.
Minimize your chances of COVID-19 exposure
The most important thing to do this Thanksgiving is to minimize your chance of COVID-19 exposure whenever you can. That is especially true if you have cancer patients or other family members in the household who are at high risk of contracting the virus or developing severe complications if they should catch it.
“Avoid any location where there are going to be crowds, such as shopping malls on Black Friday or marathons and parade routes,” adds Chemaly. “Maintaining proper social distance is almost impossible in those situations.”
And, if you have a college student or other family member who is coming home from out of town, ask them to get tested before traveling to see you, and consider having everyone in the house wear a mask and observe social distancing measures during their visit.
“A week or a long weekend is not enough time to self-quarantine effectively,” adds Chemaly. “So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
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Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
TopicsCOVID-19 Mental Health
This holiday season is an opportunity to create new traditions.
Rachel Lynn, M.D.