COVID cases in New Jersey are rising and projections show that the daily numbers could get as high as they were in April by Thanksgiving. This week, Governor Murphy announced new mitigation measures including more restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor sports. As cases rise across the country, the CDC has again updated its guidelines for safe Thanksgiving celebrations. Suggestions include asking people to stay home and not travel to recommending they hold Thanksgiving dinner outdoors.

Thanksgiving dinner
© Zigic

It remains to be seen if New Jerseyans will really host alfresco Thanksgiving dinners and exclude grandma from the holiday table. The CDC also suggests people bring their own food and utensils to a gathering and, of course, urges everyone to wear masks at gatherings. As you figure out how you’ll be celebrating the holiday, this is must-see information to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe.

A lower risk option for Thanksgiving is to have dinner just with the people in your immediate household. The CDC’s suggestion to keep windows open at indoor gatherings may be a chilly one, but it could help mitigate the risk. If you plan to have outside friends or relatives in attendance, wearing masks is one of the best defenses you have against spreading or contracting COVID or the flu. Remember to stay 6 feet apart from those who do not live with you. This can be hard to do in social situations but just remember the CDC’s tip that staying about two arm’s lengths apart is the way to go. This is especially important if you have higher risk individuals in attendance including the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Wash hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer with you just in case.

Attending a Gathering

Here are the CDC’s recommendations for attending a Thanksgiving celebration at someone else’s home:

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

If you’re the one having guests over, keep these recommendations from the CDC in mind:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

While staying home for Thanksgiving is the safest plan, it’s inevitable that some people will be traveling for the holiday. If you do plan to travel, make sure to get your flu shot before you go and be aware of any travel restrictions before you set out. The same common-sense rules we’ve been following apply here: wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

Other options for making the holiday even safer would be to host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner with friends and relatives and to make the most of the chance to stay home and do activities such as watching the parade, playing some no-touch football in the backyard and even doing some contactless volunteer activities to help those less fortunate.