Man with blue kitchen gloves carves oven-baked Thanksgiving turkey on cutting board with lemons and rosemary in foreground

Keep Thanksgiving safe from COVID-19

The 2020 winter holiday season — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s — might be the strangest most of us have ever experienced.

The “big three” traditionally involve large indoor gatherings of family and friends, lots of revelry, televisions tuned to parades and football games, tables set with mounds of food and plenty of snack bowls and beverage coolers to fill the gaps.

But the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic makes pretty much all of those things one big bad idea. So, what to do?

The safest thing is for everyone to stay home and celebrate with the people in their own household. Family traditions, though, can be hard to break. If you’re determined to create traditional, in-person holiday cheer, make sure to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Thanksgiving is first up. Here are some tips to keep your Turkey Day celebration safer.

Think small and short

Limit the size of your dinner party, and cut down the length of time everyone is together.

“Really watch the number of people you have together. The more people you have from different households, the greater the risk,” said Melinda Cooling, vice president of advanced practice for OSF HealthCare. “Also, the shorter duration you’re together poses less risk.”

Recent data has identified small gatherings as hotbeds for spreading the virus. That’s largely due to a lack of physical distancing.

“Most people don’t have big enough homes to allow guests to separate much,” Melinda said. “If you can’t maintain distancing, that’s where the size of your gathering becomes important.”

Change the way you shop and serve Thanksgiving food

The Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in being grateful for a bountiful harvest. In more modern times, it seems to have become all about the turkey, stuffing and trimmings.

But in the pandemic era, if there’s any place to break with tradition, it’s the way you serve food.

That starts with shopping. You want to avoid crowds, so don’t wait for the last-minute rush. Plan your heavy shopping for off-peak hours. Think ahead and purchase canned and dried foods early.

And rethink your normal shopping list.

“Think single units instead of a common serving bowl,” Melinda said. “I would have just one person serving, and that person should wear a mask and gloves. If people serve themselves, don’t let them use the same serving spoon.”

And when it comes to eating and drinking, use disposable utensils, plates and cups.

Use individual snacks and condiments

Keep these same guidelines in mind at kickoff time.

Start by spreading out. Don’t all squeeze into the same sofa or love seat.

Leave the big serving bowls in the cupboards. Offer small bags of chips, crackers and such for each person. Use individual cups or plates for the guacamole or cheese spread.

“Again, use single units, single servings,” Melinda said. “And this is also probably not the best time to have a cooler where everybody’s hands are going in to grab their drinks.”

Always remember these tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health websites provide extensive safety tips and guidelines. These include:

  • Take your temperature before you gather. If you are running a fever or feel ill, stay home. If your guests aren’t feeling well, tell them to stay home. If anyone in your planned gathering thinks they might have been exposed to the virus, stay home.
  • Clean surfaces and routinely wipe them with disinfectants, especially in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Consider where you have been. If in the past 14 days you encountered a high-risk situation, or if you suspect you have been exposed to someone who might have COVID-19, stay home – or send regrets to your host.
  • If you are traveling, know where you are going and what the infection risks are there. Check local guidelines regarding exposure to the virus and quarantining.
  • Always be mindful of your surroundings, and have hand sanitizer ready to use as needed.

“If you’re traveling by air, avoid taking cups or food from the attendants,” Melinda said. “Make sure you wear a mask, and take disinfectant wipes to clean the area where you’ll be sitting.”

Finally, always remember the “3 Ws” for staying as safe as possible during the pandemic:

  • Watch your distance – stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your own household.
  • Wear a mask whenever you’re in public.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

About Author: Kirk Wessler

Kirk Wessler started work as a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare in January 2019. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, he previously worked for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and most recently at the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, MaryFrances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. He’s on a quest to master playing guitar and golf. He also loves to travel, especially driving back roads.

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Categories: COVID-19