Is It Safe To Celebrate Thanksgiving This Year?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and many families are trying to decide if they should get together for the traditional feast.

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The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how to safely celebrate Thanksgiving during the coronavirus pandemic is very clear. To be safe, it’s best to eat your holiday turkey with only the members of your own household this year.

“The only way to really protect yourself is to really limit your contact with other people,” said Dr. Julie Holland, vice president of pediatric primary care for the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance.

In guidelines updated Monday by the CDC, the agency recommends quarantining for two weeks before your gathering if you want to spend time with people outside your household.

If your celebration is set for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, that would mean you should begin quarantining on Nov. 12. That means no trips to the store, no working outside the home, no in-person school for two weeks.

“It doesn't work if only some people in the house quarantine; everybody has to,” Dr. Holland said.

Getting tested right before your get-together isn’t guaranteed either.

“Even if you have been exposed to coronavirus right before you take the test, you may have not developed enough of the virus to test positive and still be able to spread it,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a Northwestern Medicine physician.

If you still plan to get together, the CDC offers these tips:

  • host outdoors or open windows & doors
  • require masks be worn
  • have one server who wears a mask to avoid everyone touching the utensils
  • wash hands frequently

“The hard part right now is that no matter how safe you try to be because the rates in the communities that we're in are surging, that that remains the challenge that may be insurmountable no matter how many safety measures you've taken,” Dr. Khan said.

If you are considering traveling for the holiday, the CDC offers travel guidance as well, including:

  • wear a mask and consider a face shield or goggles
  • bring your own snacks
  • stock up on sanitizer

“We are in a big surge, and again it's everywhere. I have a 91-year-old mother who lives in another state, and I will not be seeing her for any of the holidays this year. And that's really hard, but my, in my view, the most important thing I can do for my 91-year-old mother is to protect her,” Dr. Holland said.

Health experts point to Canada’s Thanksgiving as a cautionary tale. Canada’s Thanksgiving was in mid-October and now the country is seeing a spike in cases that doctors attribute to holiday gatherings.

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