How to Plan Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

The United States may soon have a vaccine for COVID-19. However, the vaccine will not arrive before Thanksgiving just under two weeks from now. With the contagious virus still spreading, millions of Americans are searching for advice on how to plan their Thanksgiving this year.

Below are several recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as some common sense approaches to keep everyone as safe as possible while gathering to celebrate their blessings.

Tips for Thanksgiving Day Hosts

If weather permits, the CDC recommends hosting the Thanksgiving meal outdoors. Here are some additional CDC tips for hosts:

  • Limit the size of the gathering as much as possible, especially with guests living in different households.
  • Ask guests to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking and avoid physical contact such as handshakes or hugs.
  • If serving food indoors, crack open windows if it isn’t too cold outside to increase ventilation.
  • Ask guests to avoid shouting or singing to prevent spittle from moving across the room.
  • Disinfect and clean commonly touched areas as often as possible during the gathering.

For hosts who plan to serve the Thanksgiving meal outside, they will need to re-think how to set up seating. Instead of seating everyone side by side at one long table, put out a few rectangular or circle-shaped card tables. Guests should sit at the same table as other members of their household. To make it easier to move around and encourage social distancing, hosts should set up outdoor tables at least six feet apart.

Consider a Virtual Thanksgiving

People who live close to family or friends who normally come over for Thanksgiving can make it fun this year by participating in a meal exchange. Everyone in the group should come with a mutually agreeable meal plan and then individually load recipes to a shared spreadsheet. Participants in each household then make the part of the meal they agreed to, divide into equal portions for the rest of the participants, and deliver it to each household.

After making the deliveries, each family goes back to their own home and sets up a virtual connection with the other participants. They can say grace together or whatever is their custom and then dig in and enjoy.

Remember to Stay Vigilant

The actions that people have had to adopt this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may not have developed into habits yet. It is natural for groups of people to revert to the way they have always done things, especially when surrounded by those they know best. 

Unfortunately, it’s still too early for people to let down their guard. While they don’t have to give up their holiday, limiting the guest list and taking the other precautions listed above can help to control the spread of the virus.

Avoiding high-risk activities like unnecessary trips using public transportation and gathering indoors with large groups are additional ways that Americans can do their part this Thanksgiving holiday. With some careful planning, the day can be just as special as it has always been.