Coronavirus News: CDC releases updated guidelines for Thanksgiving

NEW YORK -- The CDC posted its most specific guidance yet on Thanksgiving Monday, which emphasizes that the safest option for the holiday is celebrating only with people in your household or taking extra precautions like wearing masks and keeping your distance if you celebrate with others.

A safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic is possible, but health experts know their advice is as tough to swallow as dry turkey: Stay home. Don't travel. If you must gather, do it outdoors.

"Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu," the agency said in its updated guidance. "Follow these tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday safer."

With a fall surge of coronavirus infections gripping the U.S., many Americans are forgoing tradition and getting creative with celebrations.

"The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household," the agency said. "If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer."

In recent weeks and as the weather has cooled down, public health officials have said they're concerned small gatherings were fueling the number of cases. This new guidance points out that even with friends and family, precautions need to be taken to prevent the holiday from adding to the trend of increasing cases.

The CDC says to make Thanksgiving safer, if you are with friends or family outside your household, you should wear a well-fitting mask, keep 6 feet of distance from people who do not live with you, and keep hands clean. The agency also recommends bringing your own plate, cups, and utensils, store your mask safely while eating and drinking, avoid going in and out of the kitchen while food is being prepared, and using single use options for condiments and food containers.

Hosts can plan the meal outdoors with a limited group or open windows if dining indoors, talk with guests about expectations beforehand, sanitize surfaces, or even consider having guests bring their own food and drink.

If you are traveling, the guidance emphasizes checking travel restrictions, getting your flu shot, wearing a mask, distancing, and washing hands often in public places.

CLICK HERE for the full CDC guidelines

Experts point to Canada, where Thanksgiving was celebrated October 12 and clusters of cases were tied to family gatherings followed.
"This sucks. It really, really does," Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said two weeks later.

What about a quarantine? The magic day to start a pre-Thanksgiving quarantine is November 13, according to Lindsey Leininger, who leads the Nerdy Girls, a cadre of scientists collaborating on a website called Dear Pandemic.

A strict quarantine would mean no grocery shopping, no working outside the home and no in-person school for 14 days.

What about testing? The best day to test would be as close to Turkey Day as possible while still leaving enough time to get results. But a test might not catch a still brewing infection so the best plan is the quarantine for two weeks - the time it can take for symptoms to show up.

Instead of that rigmarole, Leininger said her children will see their grandparents via Zoom on Thanksgiving. After dinner, the family will meet neighbors in the driveway for pie.

"We bring our own pie and they bring their own pie," said Leininger, of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. "It's cold here in northern New England, but pie can be a quick activity."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report
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