The CDC is issuing Thanksgiving activity guidelines, and this year the agency says less is definitely more. While people continue to navigate the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving amid the pandemic, the CDC recommends people keep gatherings small, forgo travel if possible, and conduct Black Friday shopping online.
The agency says Thanksgiving is a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.
In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk, so it is important to consider them individually and together:
- Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when considering whether to host or attend a holiday celebration. Information on the number of cases in an area can be found on the area’s health department website.
- The location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.
- The duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
- The number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
- The locations attendees are traveling from – Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- The behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.
- The behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more preventive measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.
The CDC also ranked holiday activities with risk levels.
The CDC is adding crowded malls and stores to its activities deemed high risk. Other Thanksgiving traditions like Turkey Trots and parades could also help spread coronavirus. Visiting a pumpkin patch or apple orchard is considered moderate risk. The CDC recommends having a virtual holiday recipe swap with family or friends and buying gifts online.
The agency also cautioned about inappropriately using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behavior.