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Thanksgiving is a holiday full of time-honored traditions—but 2020 has been anything but traditional! The coming holiday will still be a time to enjoy with family and friends, celebrate togetherness, and give thanks, but with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures in place, considering the health and safety of your guests should be an important factor in planning this year’s holiday celebration. How many people is it safe to have over? Should accommodations be made for older relatives? What extra health precautions should you adopt to help prevent the spread of disease while sharing a meal? In this blog post, we’ll give you some tips for planning a safe family gathering this Thanksgiving.
1. Wash Your Hands Often
We’ve been hearing about how important regular and thorough hand-washing is to preventing the spread of COVID-19 since March—and it’s still the best advice to follow! Keeping your hands clean is one of the most beneficial steps you can proactively take to help prevent illness and limit the spread of germs to others.
You should be washing your hands regularly anyway, but be particularly cognizant of it during gatherings or if you are preparing food. Make sure that you wash your hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
2. Limit the Number of Guests
Holiday guest lists are probably going to look a little (or a lot) different this year. According to Better Home & Gardens, “A late June 2020 Butterball survey found that 21% of 1,000 adults polled say they have no idea what they’ll do this Thanksgiving, although one in four expect their holiday table to include fewer people than last year.”
The safest plan is to limit your gathering to your immediate family and celebrate with your household. It may be a tough decision—especially since we’ve all been limiting our interactions to mostly family this year, already—but limiting the size of your guest list is the best way to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
If you do decide to have friends and extended family over, be aware of the infection rates for the communities your guests will be traveling from. You’ll also want to be aware of any local restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather indoors, as this capacity limit will provide guidance on how many people you should consider inviting over.
3. Consider the Safety of Older Family Members
Grandma’s famous pecan pie may be the highlight of your Thanksgiving meal, but is having it worth compromising grandma’s health and safety in the midst of a global pandemic? Sandra Kesh, M.D., the deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York, offers the following advice: “Elderly and immunocompromised people should not attend in-person Thanksgiving dinner celebrations, especially if the rate of community spread is high or growing, and if the holiday will be celebrated indoors.”1 To make sure your high-risk family members are still included in your holiday celebrations, consider inviting them to join virtually over video chat.
4. Rethink Tradition and Host a Backyard Thanksgiving Barbeque
One way to elevate the health and safety of your guests and family this year is to have your Thanksgiving meal outdoors. Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, recently reported to Advisory, “Research has shown that ‘outside is definitely safer’ than indoor gatherings when it comes to potentially transmitting or contracting the new coronavirus.”
While we typically celebrate Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen and around the dining table, gathering in the backyard instead will help keep your friends and family safe. Have some fun with it by grilling a turkey on the barbeque or projecting the football game on a screen outside.
5. Celebrate with Comfort Food
This year’s Thanksgiving celebration may not be the one we’re used to, but it is still a time to celebrate togetherness, reflect and be grateful, and eat great food! Natalie Seymour, a food safety associate at North Carolina State University has some good news in that regard: “Food has not been shown to be a risk factor in transmission. The greatest risk for COVID-19 comes from person-to-person transmission, which is generally a factor when you’re within six feet of others for 15 minutes or longer.”1
I’ll leave you with some great advice from Ashley Lind, director of consumer insight at Conagra Brands: “As we find ourselves in these strange, often isolated, and sometimes monotonous times, I think many people have also found a new appreciation for togetherness, connection and a desire to make moments like these a little extra special for loved ones. So, this year, I can see these gatherings carrying some extra significance for families as they come together and perhaps use food—which has become an activity in its own right throughout the pandemic, with the rise of families cooking and baking together—to celebrate.”2
Amanda Harr is a Marketing Content Writer at SWBC. She uses a structured creative process to craft marketing strategies and develop communications solutions.