By Kelsey Shanahan-Prendergast, M.D.

Family and friends frequently travel to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones. But for the second year, there is hesitancy around how to gather together. Nothing is foolproof, but there are ways to try to minimize risks as you gather for Thanksgiving this year.

Consider these tips as you plan your Thanksgiving holiday:

Take a break: The CDC continues to recommend that travel be delayed until people are fully vaccinated. Families can get creative in virtual gatherings with games, slide shows, and eating together at the same time online. If waiting isn’t an option, visit the CDC’s Travel page for ways to make travel safer. Of course, we know to socially distance, wash hands, and wear a mask.

Take it outdoors: Moving the gathering outdoors is a better option, especially for those hosting unvaccinated guests.

Take note: People who have compromised immune systems may not be fully protected, even when vaccinated. The CDC recommends taking precautions similar to those who are unvaccinated, including wearing a mask indoors.

Take a shot: If you’re eligible, schedule a visit for your third vaccine, the booster. While it takes two weeks to be fully immune, the process moves forward for Christmas gatherings.

Take numbers into consideration: Track cases in local communities and modify plans, if necessary, by wearing a mask in public indoor spaces. Or limit interaction with others, especially when vaccination status is unknown. Small indoor gatherings for fully vaccinated people is ideal.

Take a breath: There are inherent risks as we navigate life during COVID-19. Talk with friends and family to gauge what people feel comfortable doing.

Holidays are often stressful on their own, so don’t add one more thing to the list: stress. Be smart and take appropriate precautions with family and friends during COVID. Schedule time with your physician if you have concerns about a Thanksgiving gathering.


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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