With Thanksgiving right around the corner, health officials are worrying about a spike in Coronavirus cases due to mass gatherings. This year will test whether or not Americans value safety over family. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
The dinner table on Thanksgiving usually consists of turkey, stuffing, casserole, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, but this year’s table may hold an unwanted guest: Coronavirus. With almost every family in America coming together to celebrate, top health officials are sounding the alarms on these possible superspreader events.
Normally family dinner wouldn’t impose any threat, but with relatives and family members coming in from out of town, the risk can be high. The United States is also seeing its worst spike since the pandemic started, with around 250k deaths and a seven day average of 158k cases. Nobody wants to get their family members sick, so here are some tips on how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure on Thanksgiving.
#1: Stay Home
The most obvious and effective method of reducing the spread of the Coronavirus is to stay home. It’s what the doctors have been recommending since day one of this pandemic. You and your family could skip this year’s gathering, or do what some families have done and have reunions over FaceTime or Zoom. Simply have Thanksgiving dinner with your family at home; don’t go to see your grandparents or extended family. Make the most of the family that you’re already with at home. While this is the most effective method, it’s obviously everyone’s least favorite, so the rest of the tips will be things you can do when you’re all together to stay safe.
#2: Wear Masks
Another apparent way of stopping the spread is to wear a mask when you and your family aren’t eating. It may seem weird to wear a mask while you’re with your family, but people have to remember that some of their family isn’t always with them. While your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins aren’t strangers, they’re out living their lives and could unknowingly bring Coronavirus to Thanksgiving. We wear them when we’re out eating and shopping, wearing one while mingling with family is no different. The science has proven that when two individuals are interacting with one another, even if one is a COVID carrier, if they’re both wearing a mask the risk of spread is low.
#3: Clean and Sanitize Everything
Before all of the family arrives, whoever is hosting the gathering should take proper precautions to keep everything clean. Wipe down counters and tables, wash blankets and furniture covers, wipe down touch points such as door handles, try to keep the bathroom cleaner than usual. Disinfecting the kitchen should happen plenty of times throughout the day. We may not realize it, but we touch our faces hundreds of times a day, and if we touch them after touching a surface with COVID on it we’ll be in real trouble.
Make sure to use proper cleaners as well. Solutions containing more than 70% alcohol are effective in killing the virus. You can also use diluted bleach as a surface cleaner. Please do not mix chemicals — the basics are enough to keep you safe. When eating, try and use disposable plates and plasticware. It may not be glamorous but these one-use dishes will be sterile.
#4: Try and Spread Out
This may be the only year when sitting at the kid’s table is a good thing. Preferably don’t all sit at one table: Two to three spread out tables with less than six people at each is the safest seating method. Remember that you’re all family, shouting across the room to another table is okay in these tough times. Pull out the card table and divide the family up — six people breathing around each other at one table is safer than twelve. Also, try and keep chairs spread out as well. Six feet between each one may be tough but any gap is better than no gap.
#5: Designate a Server
Try to keep the number of people preparing food to a minimum. I’m not telling you to leave grandma all by her lonesome, but the fewer people in the kitchen the better. Designate one of the cooks to serve the food. This means only one person should be handling the food and portioning it out. That person should wear a mask and be the only one handing out plates of food, the less contact between people and plates the better. This should eliminate the passing of food at the dinner table itself, you may ask someone at the other end of the table to pass you the collards but field greens might not be the only thing they’re passing to you. While a proven case of catching COVID from food hasn’t happened yet, it’s always safer to limit exposure.
#6: Let Things Air Out
Don’t let it get stuffy inside. A closed space where everyone’s breathing the same air is the perfect environment for Coronavirus to spread. To prevent this, try and open the windows. Any room in the house where multiple people are gathering and hanging out should have an open window. Allowing for the air to flow freely and ventilating the house is key. It may be chilly, but it’s okay to keep your coat on inside. If you have the chance, you and your family can hang out outside. People don’t have to eat outside. If they can it’s much safer, but they should try and stay outside if all they’re doing is catching up with relatives.
#7: Post-Thanksgiving Wrap Up
After everyone’s done eating, it’s time to do the process over again. Each person should be responsible for their own dishes. If you choose to follow the previous steps, all everyone has to do is individually throw their paper plates and plastic silverware away. If you choose to use your china, it’s best for everyone to wash their own plates. Stopping any cross contamination is important. Do another surface wipedown of tables, chairs, and wherever people have been hanging out the longest. Don’t linger. The shorter stay you have the better: say hi, eat, then leave.
And for the love of God, please don’t go out for Black Friday. That one-hundred dollar smart TV is not worth the risk of getting COVID. Most of the stores have been doing online deals anyway.
Coronavirus is here to stay, and we have to live with it. I know that everyone just wants a normal Thanksgiving and that none of these tips are ideal but safety needs to come first. We as a society cannot simply ignore the virus because it inconveniences our holidays. Not following these basic health tips won’t eradicate the chances of catching COVID, but they will help to prevent it. Gathering as a family to eat around the table is heartwarming, but imagine if your grandparents or immunocompromised got sick. Things won’t get better if we value traditions over safety, so I implore you to follow these tips to the best of your ability, stay safe this holiday season, and have a happy turkey day.