Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

With COVID on the rise in the United States today, everyone is wondering what they are going to do about their most beloved holidays and traditions, including their favorite food stuffing holiday. 

COVID has affected almost every other aspect of people’s daily lives and the holidays are no exception to this pandemic. While most Americans used to enjoy getting together with all of the family and stuffing their faces with food and desserts, everyone will have to change things up a little this year whether everyone likes it or not. As plenty of others have had to shake up all of their other holidays, Thanksgiving will prove to not be an exception and will be adapted for these weird times. 

“With cases rising around the country, and beginning to increase here in Santa Clara County as well, we all must come together and keep up the efforts to reduce transmission,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for the County of Santa Clara. As she had said about the pandemic, everyone needs to change how they celebrate this year to help reduce transmission of the virus. Some of the ways to do this include wearing masks at gatherings and staying six feet apart like people have been doing so far this year. As most people are, the best way to help is by foregoing travel, whether it be by plane, car, or boat. Even if people do travel to anyplace to see family, they should make sure to bring their own food and if they do choose to use a car, make sure to wipe down the gas pumps before using them so that everyone can help stop the spread. Airplanes are mostly safe if families plan to travel, as the risk of COVID transmission onboard an airplane is lower than that of other routine activities, like grocery shopping or dining in a restaurant. However, there are certain “Gray Areas” where the risk is elevated, like when people crowd onto the bridge boarding the plane, walking in the aisle, standing in to disembark the plane, and taking off masks for snacks and drinks on the cruise there. 

Getting off of the travel talk, there are plenty of new ways people can be safer during gatherings and get-togethers, like picking their guests carefully. No one intends to be mean, but people or family from “hot spots” of COVID like the Midwest, have a greater risk of bringing it to a family’s Thanksgiving. “I’m cautious about that for any event that brings people from outside the region into the region,” said Chin-Hong, a professor of infectious diseases at UCSF. If plenty of people from outside of a family’s area come from places that have bigger numbers or risks of COVID, they could potentially bring illness and flu-like symptoms to the dinner table. Some other ways to keep COVID out is to try eating outside, where the ventilation is better and is not as crowded as the inside of a house. When it comes to the table itself, cleanliness does matter but don’t go overboard. For example, if people try to clean every utensil, like tongs, for example, they have a bigger risk of spreading cleaning chemicals into the potato salad, instead of stopping the COVID spread. “The advice is old-fashioned,” Chin-Hong said. “Keep your nose and mouth away from other noses and mouths.” 

As some people have done already, much like schools and colleges, trying Zoom to keep in touch with the family may be one of the best options for Thanksgiving this year. While other family members get to talk and eat with people and their immediate family, there is absolutely no risk involved whatsoever. While COVID has the stage for the biggest concern right now, there are tons of other food and health concerns that can take place in the house when people prepare the food. Just some older rules that still take place, and still are as serious as COVID. Avoid the politics, always cook the turkey at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, wash hands thoroughly with soap, and refrigerate the leftovers within two hours. As with this year being so hectic, having a smaller dinner, while there is less food, is safer for the whole family. After all of the food has been eaten and handled, experts say that people should shop online, rather than in person, and to watch sports and movies at home. These tips should help to make Thanksgiving safe and enjoyable this year.

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