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Photo: Vancouversun.com

There’s no way to eliminate the possibility of being infected by the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Any time you interact with other people, in or outside your home, there’s a chance of coming into contact with the virus. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risk during Thanksgiving.

Consider a remote gathering

As much as you want to get together in real life with far-flung or nearby loved ones, seeing them on a laptop screen instead would be safer in the middle of a pandemic, says Dr. Benjamin Singer, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “While it’s unusual, the safest Thanksgiving dinner may be remote, with households each having their own celebrations and connecting with each other via technology,” Singer says. Make sure everyone has a laptop or a cellphone and knows how to get into a Zoom meeting.

Weather permitting, host an outdoor gathering

When it comes to avoiding the new virus, outdoor activities are far safer than being indoors. If you’re doing an outdoor gathering, follow all the usual guidance for slowing the spread of the virus, Alexander says. That means maintaining social distance and wearing a mask. “Set up socially distanced chairs and tables,” she says. “If the weather permits, games like Frisbee, cornhole or pickleball are naturally socially distanced. Just remember to keep your hands away from your face and to use hand sanitizer before and after playing.”

Keep gatherings small

The White House’s coronavirus task force has issued guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. The bigger the crowd, the higher the risk, says Dr. Niket Sonpal, a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist based in New York City. He’s also a faculty member at the Touro College of Medicine. Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, particularly if any of the attendees is from a state with spiking cases of the new virus. In mid-October, 10 states — including Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin — reported their highest single-day counts of novel coronavirus cases.

Follow basic novel coronavirus safety precautions

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Photo: OchsnerBlog.com
Whether you attend an indoor or outdoor Thanksgiving gathering, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, don’t touch your face and wash your hands. These measures “reduce the risk” of infection, Sonpal says.

Avoid buffet-style meals

Some families typically set out a buffet for Thanksgiving. That’s not a great idea during a pandemic, says Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian in Chicago. “People often stand close to each other when going down the line to get food buffet-style,” she says. Consider designating one person to do the serving while practicing social distancing. If you do have a buffet — with food set on a table or island for people to serve themselves — spread the dishes out to give people more room as they serve themselves.

Check in on older family members

This Thanksgiving in particular, it’s important that people don’t forget about their family members who live in senior housing facilities or are sheltering in place for health reasons, says Jennifer Shannon, a pharmacist based in Johns Creeks, Georgia. “As an independent community pharmacist, I have seen firsthand how devastatingly sad and lonely this time has been for these patients,” she says. Because of the pandemic, many senior living facilities have suspended visits. But some allow socially distanced visits, and you can always call or video chat.

Shop for Black Friday deals online

Going to the mall to scout for Black Friday deals the day after Thanksgiving is almost as much a tradition as the meal, Sonpal says. “But this year, shopping should be done primarily online to avoid large droves of people at the mall,” he says. If you decide to shop in person, try to shop during hours when there are fewer people in the stores.

Minimize your chances of COVID-19 exposure

The most important thing to do this Thanksgiving is to minimize your chance of COVID-19 exposure whenever you can. That is especially true if you have cancer patients or other family members in the household who are at high risk of contracting the virus or developing severe complications if they should catch it.

“Avoid any location where there are going to be crowds, such as shopping malls on Black Friday or marathons and parade routes,” adds Chemaly. “Maintaining proper social distance is almost impossible in those situations.”

And, if you have a college student or other family member who is coming home from out of town, ask them to get tested before traveling to see you, and consider having everyone in the house wear a mask and observe social distancing measures during their visit.

“A week or a long weekend is not enough time to self-quarantine effectively,” adds Chemaly. “So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.” - Reported by Mdanderson.org.

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