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Your Healthy Family: Planning a pandemic safe Thanksgiving dinner

Posted at 8:46 AM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 10:46:46-05

CLEVELAND, OHIO — As with most events, we should expect Thanksgiving to look different this year due to COVID-19.

Joseph Khabbaza, MD, a critical care medicine specialist with Cleveland Clinic, said gatherings should be kept small and reminds us that family settings have the potential for loved ones to unknowingly spread coronavirus.

“Any gathering with family members has the risk of infecting any of them, and of course, the more vulnerable are more likely to end up very ill needing one of us in the ICU,” he said. “So no gathering is totally safe unless it’s just really with the people under your own roof.”

If you do decide to plan a small get together with immediate family, it’s important to know what your guests are doing in their day-to-day lives, so you can gauge the risk they’ll bring to the dinner table.

For example, college students and school-age children who are attending classes in-person may fall into a higher risk category of being carriers of COVID-19.

You’ll also want to consider someone’s workplace and personal life, including whether COVID-19 precautions, like masking, are enforced and followed.

If your guests are traveling, you should keep an eye on the COVID-19 case numbers in their area to determine their risk level.

If possible, high risk guests should quarantine for 10 to 14 days before attending your event.

When quarantine isn’t possible, wearing a mask during the gathering is recommended.

These measures may be a tough sell for your loved ones, but protecting them can help ensure they’ll be at the dinner table long after the pandemic is gone.

“The patients I’ve had, who have been at other family gatherings, like weddings, and have gotten sick, there’s just been a tremendous amount of guilt that’s left on the people hosting the event,” said Dr. Khabbaza, “I don’t think you’ll ever regret being extra cautious in the middle of a pandemic. The regret can only occur if a loved one gets very sick as a result of your gathering.”

In warmer climates, gathering outdoors can reduce virus transmission risk. However, it’s important to remember that social distancing is still necessary outside, so be sure your guests are sitting six feet apart.

Dr. Khabbaza reminds us the safest gatherings this Thanksgiving are either virtual or with the people living in your home.