News and Commentary

CDC Warns Americans Not To Travel For Thanksgiving, Hold Virtual Gatherings Instead

Family members "could end up being hospitalized and severely ill and die"
Happy multi-generation family communicating while having Thanksgiving lunch in dining room.
skynesher/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday urged Americans not to travel over Thanksgiving, instead recommending that they gather virtually to celebrate the traditional family holiday.

“The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members, from coming together in this family gathering, actually could end up being hospitalized and severely ill and die,” the agency’s COVID-19 incident manager, Dr. Henry Walke, said during a press conference Thursday. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period.”

But for Americans who decide to have Thanksgiving dinner with people outside of their households, all should wear masks at gatherings, according to the new updated guidelines.

“If you choose to attend a gathering, make your celebration safer,” the CDC said. “In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps if attending a Thanksgiving gathering:

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.”

The CDC had more guidelines for those planning a gathering. “If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. These steps include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.”

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx echoed the warnings.

“We know most individuals under 35 will be asymptomatic,” she said during a visit last month to Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “That means you don’t have any symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild that you don’t believe it has anything to do with COVID.”

But that can present problems, she said.

“This virus can spread among families and friends if you take your mask off and you are primarily indoors,” she said, according to WLWT-TV.

Birx also commented on the holiday season, warning that people can get lackadaisical. “We take down our guard when we are with people we know,” Birx said, the Boston Globe reported.  “And we assume if we know you; you couldn’t have COVID.”

Related: CDC Director Says Small Household Gatherings Fueling COVID-19 Spread: Report

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