The CDC’s Guidelines for Celebrating Thanksgiving This Year as Covid Cases Surge

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Last month, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention released their guidance for safely celebrating Halloween during the pandemic. Many people took the advice to heart, especially the idea of “one-way” trick-or-treating, creating systems and contraptions to slide candy to kids from a distance, or by leaving out candy for kids to pick up. In the end, for many, Halloween was saved through creativity and generosity. Now, the United States faces even more difficult challenges: exponential spread of the virus and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The CDC has again released its recommendations for how to keep everyone safe, and hopefully they will inspire the same commitment to finding creative ways to celebrate safely.

“This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe,” the agency pleads in its opening paragraph. It first offers considerations for small gatherings — noting that keeping it to your own household is the safest — then they suggest how to assess the risk involved with a gathering with other people. That includes the community levels of COVID-19, any guests’ recent exposure during travel, how long and where you gather (especially inside or out), how many people and how crowded the space is, and how careful you and your guests are both before and during the event. They also reiterate that anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, showing symptoms of it, waiting for test results, potentially exposed to, or at high-risk of it should not attend an in-person gathering.

If you plan to host a gathering, they suggest considering these factors, as well as trying to host outside, or to increase ventilation as much as possible by opening windows or doors. The CDC also offers a list of steps to take to reduce spread, including mask-wearing, distancing, sanitation, and limited shared contact with surfaces.

Some of the most interesting, less obvious ideas come in the food and drink section. The CDC suggests that people bring their own food so things aren’t shared, making sure you have a place to store their mask while eating, and suggests either using single-use shared foods (like condiments) or designating one person to be in charge of them. 

But their list of lower risk activities, as with Halloween, is the key to staying safe, and those include having a small dinner with only your household, preparing food and delivering them to family and neighbors in a no-contact way, and having a virtual dinner with shared recipes.