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It’s that time of year when family gatherings and frequent company visits govern most of our after-work and weekend activities. While eating over-cooked turkey, sitting at the kids table and watching our favorite relative fall asleep before dessert are some of our favorite Thanksgiving memories, there is a new tradition on the horizon: mitigating the spread of COVID-19 this holiday season.
“This year has been nothing less than isolating. From stay-at-home orders to social distancing, we have missed out on so much of the human interaction that we constantly look for,” said Evelyn Balogun, M.D., medical director, Inspira Urgent Care. “But, we can’t just throw away all of the work we have done to fight the spread of COVID-19. What it means is that we need to be creative with how we celebrate Thanksgiving.”
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information about the spread of COVID-19 at holiday celebrations based on low, moderate and high risk activities. When it comes to deciding if you are going to host or attend a Thanksgiving gathering, here a few steps you can take to ensure you are making the best decision for you and your guests:
1. Take a look at the guest list
Often, relatives from out of town travel across the country to catch up in person. But now, you might want to revisit this plan. “Guests traveling from various states and towns pose a real threat to your health during the pandemic. That is why taking a look at who is coming, and where they are coming from, is critical,” said Dr. Balogun.
In accordance with the CDC, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is limiting your in-person roster to only those in your household and inviting other guests to attend virtually.
2. Choose your dinner location carefully
“If you do opt for an in-person celebration, be sure to consider the number of guests coming and your dinner location,” said Dr. Balogun.
It is well known that indoor gatherings are classified as a high risk activity as opposed to outdoor gatherings due to poor air circulation. Try hosting your dinner outdoors, either in your backyard or driveway.
“Fewer is better when it comes to the number of attendees. Try to map out a seating chart where guests are seated not only six feet apart, but also grouped by the people they live or quarantine with,” said Dr. Balogun. “Also try to plan how you will serve your guests. Perhaps create pre-plated meals and purchase individual drinks to avoid any type of open-food buffet lines.”
The CDC also states that longer gatherings show an increased risk of infection compared to shorter gatherings. So be sure to set a time limit for your event.
3. Know the new Thanksgiving etiquette
“Previously, good Thanksgiving manners meant waiting until everyone was seated to eat and offering to do dishes, but now, there are a few more things to add to the list,” said Dr. Balogun.
When attending an in-person Thanksgiving celebration, it is important to continue upholding the same preventive measures we have been hearing since March: social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands.
“Eating around other guests means removing your mask and being vulnerable to breathing and spreading potentially harmful germs,” said Dr. Balogun.
Open communication about expectations before the event is paramount in keeping each other comfortable and safe. “There should be a clear discussion among all attendees about who should stay home,” said Dr. Balogun. “This includes anyone experiencing symptoms and family members who have sustained a recent exposure to COVID-19 or are awaiting results from testing. It is surprising how many of my patients are exposed to COVID-19 by family and friends who attended social events while awaiting a test result that was ultimately positive.”
This year has presented a series of unprecedented changes. But just because we aren’t celebrating normally doesn't stop Thanksgiving from happening—it just has to happen differently. “While the CDC classifies small, outdoor dinners a moderate risk activity, smaller dinners limited to only those who live in the same house and virtual dinners are low risk,” said Dr. Balogun. “The best way to stop COVID-19 is to protect yourself and others, and that starts with making smart celebration decisions this holiday season.”
Even with the challenges, Dr. Balogun says she is personally looking forward to the holidays and can “taste the green bean casserole.”
If you begin to experience any symptoms associated with COVID-19, the best thing you can do for both you and your family is to call your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Inspira Urgent Care sites offer rapid and lab tests for COVID-19. In person and online visits are available. If you have trouble breathing and feel your symptoms are life threatening call 911. And, remember when things don’t go as planned, Inspira Urgent Care is here 8 am – 8 pm every day. You can get in line for an in-person or virtual Urgent Care visit online.