Celebrate Thanksgiving safely

Medical protective mask on an autumn background. Pumpkin, red berries, on a wooden background with a mask in the middle.

Alarm over the surge in new COVID cases caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday to issue one of its sharpest warnings to date, urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving this year. State public health officials echo that guidance. They say staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.

COVID-19 spreads easily whether gatherings are large or small, putting families and friends at risk – especially individuals who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions.

“The surge of COVID-19 infections in Georgia and across the country means we must rethink our idea of a traditional Thanksgiving this year,” says Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “Each family must assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially among elderly or medically fragile individuals, as they weigh the decision to host or attend a holiday gathering.”

Health officials encourage people to consider alternative options for celebrating this year such as hosting a virtual Thanksgiving meal or making no-contact meal deliveries and visits with family and neighbors. Northeast Georgia Health System issued a bilingual guide outlining the health risks associated with traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving activities. You can access the guide here.

If you do plan to travel and visit with family or friends outside your immediate household, Toomey says, “Everyone needs to follow the guidance of wearing a face mask, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently. And get a flu shot.”

The CDC recommends individuals who have not lived in the household during the two weeks ahead of the holiday (members of the military or college students home for the holiday) stay in a separate area of the house with a designated bathroom, if possible. Other recommendations include:

Wear a mask

  • Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

Wash your hands

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Attending a Gathering

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.

Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

Thanksgiving Travel

  • Check travel restrictions before you go.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

For more information about safely celebrating Thanksgiving log on to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.

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