The CDC Just Released Health Guidelines for Celebrating Thanksgiving 2020 Safely

Thanksgiving isn’t canceled this year, but it is amended. 

As fall is ramping up, many people have already begun to plan for the holidays. It's no surprise that celebrations will look a little different this year—and Thanksgiving is no exception. The line is blurry as to what is considered safe and what isn't, so the CDC has offered some considerations to help protect individuals, their families, friends, and communities from COVID-19.

As expected, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. The federal health agency advised that the safest way to celebrate Turkey Day is to avoid unnecessary travel. If you do intend to travel, however, you should be informed of the risks involved and adhere to CDC guidelines.

The best options? Having a small outdoor dinner with people in the same household, delivering food to neighbors, and participating in a virtual dinner all fall under the CDC's low risk category. Activities like apple picking and visiting pumpkin patches fall into the moderate risk category. On the far end of the spectrum, parades and other large gatherings are considered high risk and off-limits. (Macy's has already modified its plans for the Thanksgiving Day parade to a television-only presentation.)

Black Friday shopping is also on the no-go list, with health officials saying that shopping from home is recommended for your binge-shopping needs. But don't fret: Retailers like Amazon and Target are trying to nudge people to online shop by starting juicy holiday deals sooner and extending Black Friday deals online.

It's important to note that these guidelines are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety regulations with which holiday gatherings must comply. If you're planning to host a holiday celebration, you should first assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees.

The CDC has ranked the following activities into three areas: lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk.

Lower risk activities

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn't involve contact with others.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday.
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home.

Moderate risk activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC's recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.

Higher risk activities

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving.
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race.
  • Attending crowded parades.
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors.
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
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