Here’s what a doctor has to say about having a safe Thanksgiving this year

Illustration by Sooim Kang

This year has been challenging for everyone. With the holidays fast approaching, it’s easy to wonder how Covid will impact them, too. We’ve already seen the debate over whether trick-or-treating was safe, so how exactly will Thanksgiving look this year amid a wide-spread pandemic?

Dr. Michael Monaco, internal medicine physician at Menorah Medical Center and head team physician for the Chiefs, weighs in on what he believes is the safest way to enjoy Thanksgiving festivities this year.

Is it safe to even have Thanksgiving celebrations?

I do think that human beings by nature need socialization. It’s good for us emotionally. If we can, we should communicate and be with friends and family in a safe way. Covid-19 is a very contagious and spreadable virus, especially indoors. If it’s immediate family and everyone has been socially distanced, that’s relatively safe. If you’re inviting extend-ed family from out of town, you want to look at how they’re getting there and whether it’s going to be safe. If you’re preparing a traditional family dinner with people that are at higher risk, you’ll need to deliver it in a way that there’s no contact, where everything is already put on plates and you can stay six feet away. Alcohol also clouds our judgment, and when serving it to people, there’s a good chance the masks come off and social distancing gets forgotten. If you have people who think this is just a nuisance, don’t invite them unless you want to possibly welcome a virus into your home.

Do you think there’s a benefit to having these gatherings outside versus inside?

There’s no question. Although Covid virus is fairly contagious, if it’s a beautiful day and you can have people outdoors, there are ways to make it safe. If you’re six feet away, you’re relatively safe. If you have a high-risk individual, they’re double-protected because they’re outdoors, they’re socially distanced and they have a mask on. So there’s definitely a benefit to being outdoors if the weather is conducive.

Is there a concern for Covid transmission through food or other surfaces?

It could happen, and it’s smart to keep everybody’s hands clean and not touch their face, but it’s pretty low risk. The biggest thing is respiratory droplets and keeping them away from the eyes, nose and mouth of somebody else. We do know that masks can help. We also know that if you’re yelling or cheering and you take the mask off, you’re projecting respiratory droplets—sometimes two to three hundred miles an hour—that can go any-where from eight to ten feet. The biggest risks are yelling or singing together where you’re projecting your voice without a mask on and getting closer than six feet for longer than ten minutes.

What about other community activities, like parades or Thanksgiving Day races?

Until we get a vaccine, I would encourage all people to do a virtual race where they can communicate with each other while they’re doing it but they’re not actually together. I wouldn’t condone any Thanksgiving holiday races. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when people are breathing heavily and may tend to congregate together less than six feet. Crowded races, crowded parades—all of those things should be avoided.

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