Planning for a COVID-Safe Thanksgiving – Tips for Gatherings from ThedaCare

give thanks

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many people. Good food and fun times with family and friends make it a day for relaxing and enjoying time with others – unless you’re the cook, perhaps.

“Thanksgiving 2020 arrives with concerns about COVID-19, primarily it is a question of if and how to gather with family and friends while avoiding the spread of COVID-19, especially to older people and those with underlying health conditions.”

Long Nguyen, DO, family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma

Northeast and Central Wisconsin continue to have high rates of COVID-19 infection, which means large gatherings are not recommended by health experts.

“Ideally, it will be best to keep your guest list as short as possible this year. Try to limit it to the people with whom you live or with whom you have established a “pandemic or quarantine bubble. We also know that gathering outside is much safer, but unfortunately, that’s not a likely option for Thanksgiving in Wisconsin.”

Dr. Nguyen

Wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing continue to be the primary ways to avoid COVID-19. Dr. Nguyen said it is also important to be aware of the rate of COVID-19 infection in your area and in the areas from which your guests might be coming.

“It can be difficult because many of us have been distancing from friends and family over the past eight months, and holidays are typically a time to come together. If the infection rates continue to remain high, the wisest choice may be to postpone a gathering of family or friends until a later time.”

Dr. Nguyen

For those planning to hold a holiday gathering, Dr. Nguyen offered these suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as ways to host a safer indoor event:

  • Limit the gathering to 10 people or less.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather. (Suggest your guests bring a warm sweater, as your home may be chillier than normal.)
  • Host activities with only people from your local area as much as possible.
  • Provide updated information to out-of-town guests about any COVID-19 safety guidelines in place in your area.
  • If you are planning an in-person holiday gathering with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

“We know that COVID-19 is spread primarily through droplets and aerosols that are released into the air when we breathe, talk, sing, etc., and that’s what makes indoor gatherings much riskier. I’d highly encourage people to open windows and turn on fans or air filters to keep the indoor air moving while guests are gathered.”

Dr. Nguyen

Beyond that, he suggested asking guests to limit the number of people in a room at one time and setting up socially distanced tables so there are fewer people gathered in a small area while eating. In addition, he noted that a shorter celebration also reduces the likelihood of
transmission of germs.

Health experts also recommend limiting the number of people in the kitchen when the food is being prepared and then having one person serve the food rather than having a buffet or family-style dinner. That person should wear a mask and gloves.

“It is also recommended that guests wear a mask when making toasts and greeting others. The only time masks should come off is when people are actually eating.”

Dr. Nguyen

Of course, anyone who has been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, has symptoms of the disease, is waiting for test results or who may have been exposed in the last 14 days should not participate in any group gathering.

Traveling Safely

For those who must travel, the CDC and others recommend paying attention to the rates of infection in the places they plan to visit. The CDC offers an online CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Beyond that awareness, the CDC recommends fliers book direct flights whenever possible to avoid layovers at other airports, wear a mask at all times and follow social distancing guidelines in security lines, etc. For those traveling on public transportation such as buses, trains or the subway, wearing a mask is again a must.

For those traveling by car, the CDC reminds everyone that stopping for food, gas or bathroom breaks will put them in close contact with others and recommends limiting stops as much as possible. It suggests bringing snacks and drinks from home or using drive-through restaurants for eating and having a good supply of hand sanitizer available for everyone. When fueling cars, use disinfectant wipes to wipe down the handles and buttons on the gas pump before using them or wear disposable gloves – and throw them away immediately afterward.
Dr. Nguyen also noted that Thanksgiving weekend is a popular holiday shopping time and suggested shoppers rethink their plans.

“The CDC and others strongly suggest avoiding crowded stores. This is the year to make other plans to accomplish your holiday shopping – consider more online shopping or shop during non-peak hours. And, of course, always wear a mask when in public.”

Dr. Nguyen

Give Thanks

“While it’s been a difficult year for all and anxiety is often high, it’s important to remember to be grateful for the blessings we have. Experts recommend that expressing gratitude and gratefulness can help cope with anxiety and stress. Let’s all try our best to replace those anxious thoughts by focusing on the good things happening in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for.”

Dr. Nguyen

ThedaCare and Go Valley Kids are teaming up in 2020 to help families be healthier, more active and enjoy Northeast and Central Wisconsin.

Thedacare & Go Valley Kids

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.


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