Even though it sometimes feels like we never left March of 2020, the holiday season is quickly approaching. Thanksgiving is the next holiday in the line- up, and while this is usually a large celebration for many families, it will look a lot different this year. Especially with the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, it is extremely important to be as safe as possible when celebrating this holiday and ones to come.
The CDC has come out with new guidelines for a safe Thanksgiving, and states that the “safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household” (CDC). This means anyone you currently live with and share common space with. Anyone who does not currently live with you, even a college student returning home, should be considered part of a different household, according to another CDC article on holiday gatherings (CDC). There many factors that are at play when assessing the risk of a gathering, and they should all be considered this holiday season. The CDC states that one should consider the community level of COVID-19, exposure during travel, location of the gathering, duration of the gathering, number and crowding of people, behavior of attendees before the gathering, and behavior of attendees during the gathering. If you still decide to travel to attend another household’s Thanksgiving, follow these steps outlined by the CDC: “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, and bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizers” (CDC). When attending another household’s Thanksgiving, it is recommended that you bring your own food, plates and utensils, wear a mask, avoid going in the areas where food is being prepared, and use single- use items. It’s important to follow all of the necessary precautions, because even getting a negative COVID-19 test result isn’t enough to ensure a safe and exposure- free environment. CNN states that “If you think a negative test result means you don’t have coronavirus, you could be wrong. It can take days before a new infection shows up on a COVID-19 test” (CNN). It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to occur, but CNN states that the average time is about 5 days. Therefore, getting a test is no guarantee that you are virus- free. With all of the risk of mixing households and so many factors at play, the safest option for a Thanksgiving celebration is one with only your household, or anything virtual. The CDC suggests scheduling virtual time with family, watching Thanksgiving parades and tv specials at home, and switching to online shopping. While all of these precautions seem extreme, they are necessary, as it has been known that even just a small indoor gathering can be deadly. Canadian Thanksgiving back on October 12th showed this as well. Time Magazine explained that while Canada had increasing cases prior to the holiday, several Canadian experts agreed that “the holiday almost definitely made things even worse” (Time). Time Magazine also included a quote from an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, who stated that
This holiday phenomenon could be even worse in the United States, with the Coronavirus spiking across the country, and also the increase in “pandemic fatigue.” Time Magazine explains this as people being sick and tired of all the preventative measures and changes in behavior to curb the virus, which becomes a dangerous mindset heading into the holidays. With the evidence from previous celebrations and overall spike in cases, it really is safest to just stay at home.