How to keep your family safe throughout Thanksgiving festivities


Zach Gilbert

The CDC has offered an assessment of low risk, moderate risk and high risk activities ahead of Thanksgiving festivities with family in 2020. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

As coronavirus cases surge across the nation, it’s more important than ever to have a plan in place for how to safely conduct celebrations with family this Thanksgiving.

In most situations, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises individuals to first assess the levels of COVID-19 infections in their own community to determine whether to “postpone, cancel or limit the number of people at a celebration.”

“Some people in this country are going to be able to have a relatively normal type of a Thanksgiving, but in other areas of the country, it’s going to be, ‘You better hold off and maybe just have immediate family, and make sure you do it in a way that people wear masks, and you don’t have large crowds of people,’” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CNN.

The CDC has divided Thanksgiving activities into three categories: low risk, moderate risk and high risk.

Since traveling increases the risk of infection to COVID-19, the CDC emphasizes that low risk activities will be the safest, as these events involve celebrating Thanksgiving solely with members of your own household, in your own home, while virtually engaging with extended family.

The CDC recommends that individuals could even hypothetically “[prepare] food for family (especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who are social distancing), and [deliver] it to them without person-to-person contact” to best replicate the true Thanksgiving experience.

Moderate risk activities can include outdoor events with family and/or friends from one’s neighborhood. In addition, “gatherings with more preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing … pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented,” according to the CDC.

Large, indoor celebrations – especially with individuals outside of one’s immediate family – are generally designated as high risk activities.

“Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings,” the CDC said. “And indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.”

Furthermore, the longer a gathering lasts, the more likely it is that infection and/or spread of COVID-19 can take place.

The CDC also strongly advises against shopping in crowded stores before, on or after Thanksgiving in Black Friday-related events. Some major store chains, such as Target and Walmart, will even shut their doors on Thanksgiving Day to keep shoppers and staff safe.

Instead, the CDC urges individuals to take advantage of online deals if they wish to get a head-start on Christmas shopping, especially as many companies transition to offering their usual Black Friday exclusives digitally.

If a family does intend to travel for the holiday, the CDC instructs individuals to adhere to the usual COVID-19 precautions by wearing a mask, engaging in social distancing, washing one’s hands frequently, avoiding anyone who is sick and avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth.

“You’ve got to take it as an individual case,” Dr. Fauci said during a recent discussion at American University. “It depends on where you are [currently] and where you are traveling.”

As thorough as the CDC’s guidelines are, the agency also reminds Americans that they are not intended to replace or supersede any local or state mandates in place for the pandemic.