Like many Americans this year, Anthony Fauci will be celebrating Thanksgiving with his children, who are spread across the country, via Zoom. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that at 79 years of age, his three adult daughters would prefer not to put him at risk for COVID-19 by getting together physically.
According to Scientific American, with the number of cases hitting all-time highs, there is no such thing as a totally safe holiday gathering. But there are ways to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus, especially to loved ones who may be in high-risk categories such as seniors, those with diabetes and heart conditions, or other underlying medical problems.
Infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus at Harvard Medical School told Scientific American that the first rule of order is to keep gatherings small. Ideally, she said, it is best to minimize the number of households involved. When making the guest list, consider what risks a guest could bring to the table, for example, if he or she is a frontline worker, and decide whether you are comfortable with that risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests families and friends keep celebrations intimate this season to minimize the spread of COVID-19. According to Fox News, the CDC rated different levels of risk for holiday activities on its website.
“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,” said the CDC. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.”
Nahid Bhadelia, a leading infectious disease physician and associate professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, told Scientific American that it is safest to stay within your community this Thanksgiving. She said traveling between communities, especially if the number of cases is high in other areas, is not recommended, and warned that “a single Thanksgiving Day could fuel a community-wise surge.”
She said that if you must travel, the safest way is most likely by car with only members of your family in the vehicle. Experts suggest rolling down the windows at least three inches to reduce the number of potential viral particles in the vehicle.
Besides having a small family dinner, the CDC said Americans can celebrate giving thanks by preparing and delivering cooked meals to family, friends, and neighbors who are at high-risk for the disease, making sure there is no contact with others.
Other low-risk Thanksgiving activities include virtual dinner celebrations and watching sports events and movies at home. Moderate activities include outdoor dinners with friends, while the riskiest ways to spend Thanksgiving are to shop in crowded stores on Black Friday or attend crowded parades or large gatherings with strangers.
Dr. Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health, encourages people to have a dialogue with family members about the new COVID-19 protocol and the need to wear masks at holiday gatherings. “Maybe instead of having an ugly Christmas sweater contest, you have an ugly Christmas mask contest,” she said, according to Scientific American.
Murray and her research group has compiled a guide to celebrating the holidays. Experts say that the safest way to celebrate this year is to still get together “heart-to-heart,” but just not “face-to-face.”
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