Health experts share advice on making Thanksgiving celebrations COVID-19 friendly

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Nov 24, 2021

The holiday season is kicking into high gear as families get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. As you plan your gatherings, public health experts want you to factor safety into your plans during this pandemic.

“This is the time of year where we spread disease as well as spread cheer, and we don’t want to spread disease,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of Public Health Practice at USF Health.

Experts point to rising cases in parts of the country, asking you to keep in mind where you are traveling to and where people are visiting from when planning. Levine says to have conversations ahead of time to be clear on what plans and expectations are.

“If you’re having a gathering or you’re going to a gathering, you want to take inventory and make sure that, first of all, if you’re sick, don’t go, and if you’re hosting a gathering, check and make sure that people who are coming are not sick,” said Levine.

Dr. Levine says while it’s not perfect, rapid testing could be a good plan to put everyone’s mind at ease.

Experts say consider hosting smaller gatherings, explaining larger ones, especially inside and in poorly ventilated areas, could increase the risk of spread.

“If you are going to a gathering and it's smaller, that's ideal. If it’s outdoors, that’s ideal. The weather, a little bit cold for Florida, I can say this now, but it is still much better to be outside, and you can be around your loved ones. Have dinner outside if you can,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of BayCare.

If there’s going to be a large number of people, Anand says to try to social distance as best you can, and if you can’t, he says you can always wear a mask. If you’re going to a crowded space like malls for shopping, Anand recommends wearing a mask and keeping a distance from other people.

Experts also point out getting vaccinated is still important and will also help ahead of other upcoming holidays.

“The worst thing you could do is go to a gathering, have someone who’s 80 or 90-years-old, and accidentally give them COVID or they get sick, so please be mindful of your loved ones,” said Dr. Anand.