ATLANTA – Tuesday marks the first day of fall, which means people across the country are beginning to plan their Thanksgiving festivities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants Americans to keep coronavirus risks in mind.
Specifically, the CDC wants people to know that traveling for the holidays increases your chance of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
“Thanksgiving is a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together,” the CDC wrote in an updated guidance. “Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”
The CDC says staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others, but if you must travel, health officials want you to be informed of the risks involved.
The agency says these are considered lower-risk activities:
- Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
- Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
- Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
- Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
- Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home
These are considered moderate-risk activities:
- Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community (Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs)
- Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
- Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place
These activities are considered higher-risk and the CDC says they should be avoided to help prevent the spread of the virus:
- Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
- Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
- Attending crowded parades
- Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors
- Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household
Click here to learn more from the CDC about how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
The CDC also says activities like traditional trick or treating are higher risk activities.
It provides this list of lower-risk activities:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
- Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
- Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household "members in or around your home rather than going house to house
"Generally, if you’re outside with smaller groups of people, you’re going to be safer, provided that you’re doing physical distancing, even using face coverings and the hygienic practices," said USF professor of public health Dr. Marissa Levine. "Anything inside with lots of people is not definitely recommended and there are all kinds of things in between."
Dr. Levine said it's important to take inventory of who's sick and who's at higher risk as well as staying knowledgeable about where the coronavirus spred stands in your community.
"Right now, generally in the Tampa area, we’re starting to see an upswing in cases and it’s generally among younger adults and older children so we need to keep a close eye on that. The other thing that’s very concerning is that we’re not at a low enough level to have comfort going into flu season," she said.
She said it's a good time for people to get their flu vaccines and reminds people to not let their guard down, continue to wear masks, social distance and practice good hygiene.