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Planning for a Safe Thanksgiving 2020

by | Nov 1, 2020 | Health Matters

The turkey awaits. (Marguerite Williams photo)


How can we safely celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of a pandemic? Are there safe options for feasting and visiting with family and friends? I am not sure anyone has a cut and dried answer to these questions, but we can explore some ideas to help you formulate your own personal answer.

A typical Thanksgiving celebration may involve multiple factors that facilitate the spread of infectious disease: travel, prolonged time indoors with a sizable number of people (whom we now call “vectors”), multiple common touch points, boisterous and sometimes heated conversation. After the celebration, the guests disperse to their home turf packing a few extra pounds and maybe some unintended hangers on in the form of virus particles.

Is there a way to balance the risk involved with the emotional benefit of social connection? Infectious disease experts recommend maintaining your social “bubble” throughout the holidays. Every family must decide what they are comfortable with after becoming educated regarding the implications of in-person interaction. What are the most important factors to consider?

  • the number of participants in a group. As the number of participants goes up so does the risk. One must also consider the recent potential exposures of all members of the group. Is anyone coming from out of town? If so, they may pose an increased risk to others.
  • the setting for the gathering. Outdoors is less risky than indoors. The more distance between participants the lower the risk.
  • duration of the event. The longer the duration of the event, the greater the potential risk.
  • reducing the viral spread though masking. Of course, wearing a mask is not feasible when dining but might be feasible for conversation.
  • availability of hand hygiene. Soap and water is the best.

Nationally we have had all-time highs in daily case numbers. North Carolina daily case numbers have also hit new highs. As mentioned before, the coronavirus crisis is like a marathon. We cannot afford to let our guard down at this point. We must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

The first Thanksgiving was an outdoor event 399 years ago. Maybe if the weather cooperates, this Thanksgiving can be held outdoors, as well. Personally, I am planning for a low key event with no more than five participants but with lots of Zoom and FaceTime. I plan to give thanks for my family, friends, and community. I will also give thanks for access to communications technology, on-line shopping, drive by pick up, and home delivery. Happy ThanksZooming!

Stephen Mange, M.D.

Stephen Mange is a pediatrician, recently retired after over 35 years at the Davidson Clinic. He and his wife, Pamela, are the parents of three grown daughters and two granddaughters.

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