Thanksgiving and Covid: What’s the best plan for dinners?

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Thanksgiving, the most traveled holiday of the year in the U.S., is almost here and COVID-19 can be an unwanted guest if families don’t take precautions. If you plan to gather family around the dinner table for the holiday then, CMC physician Dr. Craig Ward has some advice on how to do that as safely as possible.

“First and foremost, people who are at higher risk for severe illness or live with someone at increased risk should not attend large, in-person Thanksgiving gatherings. High-risk individuals include older adults, those with pre-existing medical conditions, and young children. If you or someone close to you has been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for test results do not host or participate in any events,” says Dr. Ward. To determine whether you may be at an increased risk for becoming severely ill visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precautions%2Fgroups-at-higher-risk.html

There are a few questions that everyone needs answers to in order to make the best decision for your family before gathering around the table this year,” he says. Here’s a quick checklist:

• What are the 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.

• Where is the gathering? Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor ones. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation.

n How long is the gathering? Longer gatherings pose more risk

• How many people will be there? Gatherings with more people pose more risk than those with fewer people.

• Where will your guests be traveling from? Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with those who live in the same area. To determine your travel risk visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-risk.html

• What were the behaviors of attendees prior to Thanksgiving? Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least six feet apart), mask wearing, hand-washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.

• What are the behaviors of attendees during? Gatherings with more preventive measures — such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing — in place pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.

Guests should make a conscience effort to wear a mask when not eating or drinking, and be mindful of social distancing when possible. Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer.

If you are hosting this year’s festivities, you may want to consider moving the party outdoors if weather allows, or if set up indoors, see that there is good ventilation, open doors and windows to increase air flow. This may be the year to set a limit on the number of guests and perhaps try and keep the list local.

In the kitchen: currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19. However, it is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread.

• Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving and eating food. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

• Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled.

• Wear a mask while preparing or serving food to others who don’t live in your household.

• Consider having one person serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.

• Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.

• Avoid any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets or buffet-style potlucks, salad bars and condiment or drink stations.

• If you choose to use any items that are reusable (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins), wash and disinfect them after the event.

“We know Thanksgiving celebrations will look differently this year, but we have the ability to adapt to stay safe and healthy – and that can be one more thing we are thankful for this year,” said Dr. Ward.

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