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Tips to celebrate a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic

Health experts warn against gathering in large groups or with people outside your household for the holiday.

By now, we’ve all heard the warnings about gathering for Thanksgiving. Let’s put into perspective what’s at stake.

More than two million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints on Friday and Saturday combined, the highest numbers recorded since early in the pandemic. 

That means a lot of people are traveling for the holiday, ignoring guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Experts warn against gatherings in large groups or with people outside your household for the holiday.

"The prevalence has never been higher. Which means that the chances of contracting COVID now, just because so many people have it, is infinitely higher than it was in July," said Dr. Richard Zane, chief of Emergency Services at
UCHealth. "The vast majority of infections have come from small groups and small groups of families hanging out together. Thanksgiving is going to be a very dangerous time."

Even so, we know some people will still get together.

The CDC has recommendations if you still plan to go to a Thanksgiving gathering with other people. Beyond wearing masks, washing hands and eating in well ventilated areas, the CDC has some more tips here:

  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least six feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • If setting up outdoor seating under a pop-up open air tent, ensure guests are still seated with physical distancing in mind. Enclosed four-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents. If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put up the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12 inches of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.
  • Require guests to wear masks. 
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items, such as serving utensils.
  • Use touchless garbage cans if available. Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.
  • 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.