The week of Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel week of the year in the U.S., with more than 55 million people traveling to spend the holiday with friends and family.
Since COVID-19 rates are continuing to rise in most of the U.S., making plans for Thanksgiving is more complicated than ever this year.
Here are recommendations that can help keep your holiday COVID-free.
1. Celebrate Thanksgiving virtually
We know that gathering around the table to share Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends is a highlight of the year for many people. Unfortunately, this year gathering in person increases the risk that you or a loved one may unknowingly contract COVID-19.
While it may not be as enjoyable as gathering in person, hosting a Thanksgiving Day celebration virtually is the safest option when it comes to decreasing your risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.
Especially if the people you usually celebrate the holiday with are elderly, are immunocompromised, or have pre-existing conditions, it’s wise to organize a virtual Thanksgiving this year to keep everyone as safe as possible.
2. Keep the gathering small
The highest risk of COVID-19 transmission occurs in a setting in which there are a large number of guests, coming from out of town, gathering in a setting where it’s difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance from other guests.
If you do decide to gather in person with friends and extended family, it’s important to keep the gathering as small as possible, since every person outside of your household that you interact with increases your risk of transmitting or contracting the virus.
3. Spend as much time outdoors as possible
If you do attend or host a Thanksgiving gathering, try to encourage everyone to spend as much time outdoors as possible, since the rates of COVID-19 transmission are at least 20 times higher indoors than outdoors.
In some states, it may be warm enough to have the entire Thanksgiving celebration outdoors. In cooler states, consider organizing outdoor activities before or after dinner (and, of course, make sure everyone dresses appropriately for cold weather!)
4. Practice physical distancing.
If people from different households attend a Thanksgiving gathering, it’s important to practice physical distancing. Even though you may be related, if you haven’t been living together during the shelter-in-place orders, your households have had different exposures, which creates an exponential number of possible points of transmission when members of different households mingle.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends staying at least 6 feet apart -- especially when you’re not wearing a face-covering -- since respiratory droplets that carry viral particles are unlikely to travel more than 6 feet.
5. Research airlines before buying your ticket.
While all airlines require passengers to wear face coverings, they have different practices when it comes to disinfecting the aircraft, whether or not the middle seat is occupied, and what precautions employees take to lower passengers’ risk of COVID-19.
If you’re flying for Thanksgiving, it’s wise to research the airlines that offer service to your destination and choose the airline that has the safest COVID-19 practices. Pro tip: bring your own sanitizing wipes and wipe down your seat, head and armrest, seat belt, and tray table.
6. Get tested before you travel for Thanksgiving
If you have the option and means to get tested for COVID-19 prior to heading to your small Thanksgiving celebration, getting tested can provide you comfort in knowing that you are not bringing COVID-19 illness with you. We recommend getting tested as close to your departure date as possible. But ensure you research the type of testing available, including how long the results will take. If you live near our California, Connecticut, Midwest, North Carolina, Oregon, or Washington locations, rapid testing, with results in approximately 15 minutes, is available.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant