By Kelsey Shanahan-Prendergast, M.D.

COVID-19 is still in full force, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gather with loved ones this holiday season. Based on CDC guidelines for Thanksgiving activities, we’ve put together some ideas on how to safely continue some traditions and create new ones this year.

Holiday Travel

Traveling is still risky, so it’s best to avoid it. However, if you are going to visit family or if family is coming to visit you, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself and others against illness.

  • If you’re inviting visitors to your home, it’s a good idea to ask them to get a COVID-19 test prior to their arrival. If circumstances allow, quarantining for 14 days before traveling is also recommended.
  • If you’re traveling by air, make sure that your entire party is wearing masks throughout your journey. Continue practicing social distancing and sanitizing your hands.
  • If you’re traveling by car, try to bring snacks and beverages with you to minimize stops, and use a drive-thru whenever grabbing a meal. When stopping for gas or to use the restroom, be sure to wear your mask and to sanitize your hands once you return to your vehicle.

Gathering

The CDC recommends only having a small meal with your household members, but in the event that you are hosting a larger gathering with family and friends, the safest option is to hold your gathering outside. The second safest option is a well-ventilated space with the windows open.

  • Ask guests to not attend if they are not feeling well or suspect they’ve come in contact with an infected person within the past 14 days. It’s best to refrain from hugging or shaking hands.
  • Make sure tables are spaced at least 6 feet apart and that members of the same household are seated together at the same table. Provide each table with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you’re planning fun activities for kids or adults, opt for outdoor ones that allow for social distancing and little to no touching.
  • If possible, it’s best if only one person prepares all of the food items. He or she should consider wearing disposable gloves while handling food and changing the gloves often.

New Traditions

You can use this opportunity to create new, remote activities and traditions for your family and friends.

  • Swap recipes with family members, then cook and enjoy your meals together via a video conference.
  • Prepare meals with your household members and deliver them to other members of your community by leaving the meals at their door.
  • You can also use videoconferencing to watch the big Thanksgiving football games with friends and family.
  • Consider doing your Black Friday gift shopping online instead of venturing into stores. If you normally bring friends or family members with you, you can emulate that experience by shopping on the same websites while chatting on the phone or online, or video conferencing each other.

COVID has forced us to do a lot of things differently this year, and Thanksgiving is no exception. But with a little imagination and a lot of thoughtful precautions, you can still enjoy the day with loved ones and be thankful for time spent together.


Dr. Kelsey Shanahan-Prendergast is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Woodlands Clinic. Her clinical interests include preventive healthcare, health promotion, and managing hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

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