In a normal year, families across the country would be finalizing their plans for Thanksgiving celebrations right about now. Of course, 2020 has so far turned out to be anything but a normal year thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result many families are wondering if Thanksgiving gatherings are safe to have this year. While guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list small dinners with local family and friends as a moderate risk activities, health experts are finding that such small household gatherings are becoming an increasing source of COVID-19 spread.
In an Oct. 14 call with the nation's governors, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said small household gatherings were leading to a growing number of COVID-19 infections, potentially signaling the activity isn't as safe as we might have hoped. "What we're seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings," Redfield said on the call, according to CNN. "Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it's really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting."
On Monday, the United States reported more than 41,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and surging hospitalization rates, according to The Wall Street Journal. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the number of coronavirus cases in the United States had grown to more than 7.8 million with more than 216,000 people dead.
In its guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving amid the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC stressed that staying home was "the best way to protect yourself and others" as travel increased one's risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. To have the lowest risk of contracting or spreading the disease, the CDC recommended having dinner only with those who live in your house.
Other lower risk activities recommended by the CDC included virtual dinner parties and virtual recipe sharing, watching parades and sport events from home rather than in person, and preparing and delivering meals for vulnerable family, friends, and neighbors in hygienic, safe, no-contact ways.
Moderate risk activities shared by the CDC included small outdoor dinner parties with locally-based family and friends and small outdoor sporting events where safety precautions like social distancing and face masks are being followed.
With coronavirus cases on the rise in more than a few states, the CDC urged people to avoid higher risk Thanksgiving activities such as attending crowded parades, sporting events, and races. Large indoor gatherings and dinners with people from outside your immediate household were also advised against.
As for Black Friday, the CDC recommended shopping online and advised against visiting crowded stores and shopping malls, which it noted was a higher risk activity.
So although traveling to gather for large, indoor Thanksgiving celebrations is not advised this year, with a little creativity and planning, Thanksgiving 2020 can still be a memorable occasion despite the ongoing pandemic.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.