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Tips to minimize the risk of spreading the virus this Thanksgiving

The best way to stay safe & healthy is to avoid get-togethers but if you're planning one, Dr. Payal Kohli tells us what steps to take and when to minimize risk.

DENVER — Health officials nationwide are urging people not to gather with those outside their immediate household this Thanksgiving. 

For those still planning a dinner with friends and/or family, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. 

"For families that do want to get together, and the family dynamic requires that, the more family members that make the decision to self-quarantine, the more likely you're not bringing a loaded pistol for Grandma's head," Governor Jared Polis told the people of Colorado Friday afternoon.  

It's important to remember these steps only mitigate your risk and don't eliminate it altogether.

"The only foolproof way to keep your friends and family members safe this year is to do a virtual Thanksgiving. I cannot emphasize that enough," 9Health expert Dr. Payal Kohli said.

Kohli answered questions about what precautions people can take and how to ensure they're effective.

RELATED: 'A loaded pistol for Grandma's head': Polis asks people not to bring COVID to Thanksgiving table


  • Ideally for 14 days
  • Minimize your contacts as much as possible

Dr. Payal Kohli, 9Health Expert: "The biggest thing we can do in the next couple of weeks if we are planning to see somebody on Thanksgiving is to reduce our contacts. On the far end of the spectrum is completely eliminating contacts meaning quarantine at home for the next 14 days. If you quarantine at home and the person you're meeting quarantines at home then it's safe to get together. If that's not possible, try to minimize your number of contacts. Every contact increases your risk for the Thanksgiving gathering."


  • At least seven days before the get-together
  • Take a PCR test instead of a rapid test
  • Continue to minimize contact with others after the test and until the event 

Dr. Kohli: "Keep in mind that one out of every six rapid tests is turning out negative. That is a pretty high false-negative rate for a test if you think about it. The way to really use testing is one, to pad your exposure. Whatever that exposure is, five days after, which is the average incubation period of the virus, you want to go and get the PCR test. From the time of the exposure to the time of the test, don't have any new contacts. Similarly, from the time of the test to the time that you see your family member, don't have any new contacts. If you do that, then you can safely use testing to break the bubble. The mistake that I've seen people make is they get the rapid test very soon after exposure or they get the PCR test very soon after exposure and give themselves a pass to get together. That's not how it should be used."


  • Wear masks when not eating
  • Physically distance
  • Keep it short. Instead of a five or six-hour gathering, leave it at one or two hours
  • If possible, stay outside
  • If inside, open windows and avoid running a fan

Dr. Kohli: "The other possibility which I recommend is to make little pots of food for every family that's attending. That way each family is using its own aliquot of food, you're not touching serving spoons, and you're not sharing those servings. You're also not congregating in a common area where the food is being served. Finally, whoever is preparing the food, even though it's usually not a foodborne illness, should wear a mask while they're preparing the food."


  • Quarantine for 14 days
  • Take a PCR test no sooner than five days after the last flight

Dr. Kohli: "The biggest thing you can do is to self-quarantine for 14 days. That's really going to protect anyone that you may come into contact with from contracting the virus. You don't really even need testing, just work from home for 14 days so that you can really limit your contacts. If for some reason you can't self-quarantine at home for 14 days, when you come back five days later you can use testing as a way to make sure you weren't a-symptomatically infected during your travels. That doesn't mean you let down your guard with masks and social distancing but at least it allows you to know you're not infected as you're getting out there."

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