Now more than ever, Americans are ready to be with family during the holiday season, but when that desire clashes with the current reality of COVID-19, you’re bound to have a whole lot of questions. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to a mid-pandemic holiday, your family’s safest bet is to assess the situation in your location and serve up your Thanksgiving 2020 with a hearty helping of science and a generous side of planning.
Thanksgiving 2020 may seem like it’s just around the corner. But before we turn that corner, it’s important to recognize our reality: On October 24, 2020, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. set its latest coronavirus infection record. Experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warn that this is a sign to expect further spread in the coming months.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom all around. Coronavirus safety very much depends on the amount of infection in your area. As Dr. Fauci told CNN in mid-October 2020, “There’s dark green zones and green zones, which are really good — in other words, the level of infection is so low, you’d probably, with some minor precautions, do well. Then there’s areas of the country that very well might be hot.” He continues, “So I say that some people in this country are going to be able to have a relatively normal type of Thanksgiving. But in other areas of the country, you’d better maybe hold off, or maybe just have immediate family.”
Free trackers such as the COVID-19 dashboard from Johns Hopkins University can help you assess the situation in your area before you get to planning.
Safety and Tradition
Even in areas of low infection, avoiding travel really helps reduce the risk of infection, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Otherwise, the CDC recommends balancing Thanksgiving and coronavirus by having your dinner with only those who live in your household (i.e., your current quarantine bubble), making for a small but relatively traditional and low-risk holiday.
For areas with a low infection rate, holding a small outdoor dinner with a limited circle of family and friends poses a moderate risk, per the CDC. As Advisory Board notes, the more substantial international studies so far indicate that outdoor gatherings are significantly safer than those indoors, where prolonged, face-to-face interaction poses a risk. So if you live in a mild climate or don’t mind breaking out the outdoor heaters, go small and open-air with your Thanksgiving this year. Just don’t forget your social distancing and America’s best face mask with tri-layer Nano-Silver Technology (and another opportunity to get a little festive with holiday patterns).
Traditions to avoid this year include shopping in crowded stores and traveling — which may honestly be a silver lining for some — as well as attending crowded sporting events or parades, or holding big indoor gatherings with guests from outside your household.
A New Normal Thanksgiving
In America, Thanksgiving symbolizes coming together, but when the 1621 autumn harvest feast brought together the colonists of Plymouth and their Wampanoag neighbors, it was a first. To keep risk factors low, you can also explore alternative, first-time celebrations for coming together on Thanksgiving 2020.
The CDC suggests fostering a sense of community by making your traditional family recipes and delivering them to your loved ones or neighbors in a way that limits contact. A short family visit to an outdoor pumpkin patch or orchard (with masks, proper sanitizing and social distancing) can also serve as a relatively safe alternative celebration, as can a post-meal neighborhood walk or tossing a football at home. You can also take the virtual route, keeping the in-person meal to your current household bubble and carving out some time to share with virtual guests.
If you’re tech savvy, set up a family Thanksgiving Discord so that everyone has a live, dedicated place to chat and respond to the meals, the games and the deals at their own leisure. As a bonus, you get to show off your GIF game.
And remember to keep your mental health in mind, too, as Hartford HealthCare psychologist Dr. Laura Sanders reminds us. Make the meal you want to make, as simple as it may be. Encourage everyone to help for less stressful preparations, practice self-care and don’t be afraid to create brand new traditions.
Associated Press: US Sets Coronavirus Infection Record; Deaths Near 224,000
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine: Coronavirus Resource Center: COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University
CNN: CDC Thanksgiving Guidelines: How to Stay Safe and Coronavirus-free Over the Holiday
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Holidays
Advisory Board: Are Outdoor Gatherings Safe? Here’s What Experts Say
Plimoth Patuxet: Thanksgiving History
Hartford HealthCare: How to Plan Your First COVID-19 Thanksgiving