Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and many of us are making plans that include food, family, friends and football. Celebrating the holiday can seem challenging this year, however, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the United States.
Is it safe to hold a dinner party? How do I handle shared dishes and utensils? Should I travel for Thanksgiving? What about Black Friday shopping?
Recommendations on these issues and more are offered on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, there’s a whole section on holiday celebrations that’s filled with tips, guidance and specifics.
Here’s what the CDC has to say about Thanksgiving activities in 2020:
LOWER RISK ACTIVITIES:
- Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household.
- Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
- Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
- Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday.
- Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home.
MODERATE RISK ACTIVITIES:
- Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.
- Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
- Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.
HIGHER RISK ACTIVITIES TO AVOID:
- Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving.
- Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race.
- Attending crowded parades.
- Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
- Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
THE BASICS (MASKS, SOCIAL DISTANCING, HAND WASHING AND SANITIZER):
- Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
- Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
- Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu.
- Keeping 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
- Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
ATTENDING A THANKSGIVING GATHERING:
- Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
- Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
- Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
- Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.
HOSTING A THANKSGIVING GATHERING:
- Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
- Limit the number of guests.
- Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
- If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
- Have guests bring their own food and drink.
- If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.
FOOD AND DRINKS AT SMALL HOLIDAY GATHERINGS:
“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19,” the CDC website says. “It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread.”
- Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only; avoid potluck-style gatherings.
- Wear a mask while preparing food for or serving food to others who don’t live in your household.
- All attendees should have a plan for where to store their mask while eating and drinking. Keep it in a dry, breathable bag (like a paper or mesh fabric bag) to keep it clean between uses.
- Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
- Have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
- Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils and condiments.
- Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food and after taking trash out. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Designate a space for guests to wash hands after handling or eating food.
- Limit crowding in areas where food is served by having one person dispense food individually to plates, always keeping a minimum of a 6-foot distance from the person whom they are serving. Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations. Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event.
- Offer no-touch trash cans for guests to easily throw away food items.
- Wash dishes in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately following the gathering.
- Treat pets as you would other human family members — do not let pets interact with people outside the household.
“Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC says. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” If you do travel:
- Check travel restrictions before you go.
- Get your flu shot before you travel.
- Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
- Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
- Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
- Use contactless services for purchased items, such as curbside pick-up.
- Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others.