Thanksgiving During COVID-19: Keep Safety on the Table

​​​​​For many families, Thanksgiving is about getting together to enjoy a meal with relatives and friends. But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on into the holiday season, social gatherings continue to raise health risks. In fact, public health experts say that small household have been a key reason COVID-19 cases are rising again.

However, with some additional planning and lower risk activities, your family can make lasting memories and new traditions, while minimizing the risk of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19.

How to help avoid getting and spreading COVID-19 this Thanksgiving

Celebrate with members of your own household.  The lowest-risk option, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is to limit in-person gatherings to people who live in your household. Planning a special feast, cooking with your children and decorating your home for the holidays are great ways to enjoy each other’s company while protecting your family and other loved ones from COVID-19.

Think of creative ways to share the experience remotely. Consider preparing a favorite recipe with extended fam​ily over video chat. Keep the tradition of sharing what you are grateful for, or set aside time to say grace together, for example.

Plan a drop-off potluck. Another low-risk activity, according to the CDC, is to prepare traditional recipes for family and neighbors. Instead of sharing them in person, delight them with a doorstep drop-off.

Grocery shop online and help elderly or higher-risk loved ones. Staying home as much as you can is the best way to reduce COVID-19 risk. Grocery shop online with delivery or curbside pickup options if possible, and consider holiday food deliveries to elderly relatives. If you need to shop in-person, try to go at a time when stores are not as busy.

Keep in mind: if you are having trouble affording enough food because of lost jobs or other challenges during the pandemic, your pediatrician can help connect you with community support programs, such as food pantries. Resources are available to help ensure healthy, nutritious meals for your family.

If you do gather in person with anyone who has been living outside your household, take these steps to help lower the risk:

Keep the gathering small & short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would ordinarily visit.

Wear cloth face coverings and keep your distance. People from the same household can sit together, but arrange for those who don’t live together to stay 6 feet apart–even while eating. Remind everyone to wear cloth face coverings whenever they are not eating or drinking.

Open windows & stay outside when possible. If you’re indoors, open windows for better ventilation if possible. If weather permits, gather outdoors (think Thanksgiving tailgating!). Consider cooking turkey on the grill or in an outdoor turkey fryer. Remember to maintain physical distance and wear cloth face coverings even outside.

Safer serving. Choose one person to do the serving to avoid everyone touching serving utensils. Remind children to wash their hands often, and keep hand sanitizer easily available.

Remind everyone to follow safety steps beforehand. For two weeks before coming to dinner, ask guests to be sure to follow steps that lower the risk of COVID transmission. This includes wearing cloth face coverings, physical distancing, limiting outings and social gatherings as much as possible, and washing hands often. Consider offering your guests a “self-screening” checklist and ask them to join you virtually rather than in person if they don’t pass the screen.

​If you must travel, keep in mind:

Traveling increases the chance of spreading COVID-19. If you will be traveling during this holiday season, take steps to protect yourself and others during your trip:

  • Drive with family members in a private vehicle to avoid exposure to people outside your household if possible.
  • Wear a mask when you leave your car (at gas stations and rest stops).
  • Make meals ahead of time to avoid restaurant stops if possible.
  • If you must travel by plane, be careful near large groups clustered around security lines and concourses.
  • If there is a crowd, try to wait until the line has thinned out.


Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others; had any coronavirus symptoms within 48 hours of the gathering; is waiting for viral test results; could have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days, or is at high risk.

Stay safe during Thanksgiving 2020 and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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