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Thanksgiving During a Pandemic

The holidays are a joyous time of year when we gather together with family and friends to eat, drink, play games and simply enjoy being with our loved ones. Now that we’re into November, the most-anticipated holiday season will soon be upon us, starting with the long Thanksgiving weekend. We’ve been advised to scale back when it comes to participating in large gatherings. Behaviors that once seemed so innocuous, like hugging, kissing, passing out gifts, and even sitting down and sharing food with one another, may need to take a back seat for a while until we’re certain what the future holds when it comes to practicing what used to be considered “normal” to us. We don’t want to miss out on being with family, so what can we do to make this season enjoyable, as well as safe?

Safe Travel Plans
It’s well known that the Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel holiday, but heeding certain guidelines to stay safe and healthy is very important. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention outlines four different levels of safety practices when it comes to celebrating, which includes Transportation, Lodging, Food, and Camping. These four areas are then divided into five different risk levels: lowest risk, lower risk, medium risk, medium-high risk, and high risk. For example, they say that the lowest risk for travel is taking a short trip by car with no stops along the way. Higher risk practices include flights with layovers at crowded airports, staying at dormitory-style hostels where you’re lodging with people who don’t live in your home, and eating in a restaurant with little social distancing or where masks aren’t required. Talking with your family members about which guidelines you might want to follow is the first step in making wise decisions.

Virtual Celebrations
Although cozying up to a computer screen may not be as satisfying as sitting around the dining room table with others digging into mom’s famous pumpkin pie, this still may be the safest way to celebrate with extended family.

Megann Wither and her family are hosting a “new normal” Thanksgiving Zoom call with their family and friends. “We are going to cook a meal and eat it on camera,” she explains. “We plan on setting up the computer near the kitchen table so that we can eat ‘together’ with family and friends. We’re excited about hosting our virtual Wither Family Thanksgiving this year because more people can pop in virtually than the people just living within close proximity.”

Wither continues by saying that one thing her family has learned during this pandemic is that even though this technology has been available for some time, they’ve never leveraged it quite this way. She says, “We do monthly Zoom meetings to share how things are going and make frequent calls to family and friends.” These types of Thanksgiving celebrations will certainly be a first for many this year.

Utilizing the Great Outdoors for Celebrations
Although it may not be the traditional way to celebrate Thanksgiving, Karen Tantzen, her husband and two sons are packing up their pop-up tent trailer and heading to Lake Fausse Point State Park to spend their holiday. “Our family can’t travel to see us because they are high risk for COVID, plus they live far enough away to require a plane trip to fly here,” she says. They don’t want to go to a restaurant or eat alone at home, so they’re taking off for the weekend. She says that she and her husband will most likely dine on turkey and her kids will have hotdogs. “We will be in our pop-up camper and we’ll play lots of board games, dice games and card games.”

Celebrating in Person
Dr. Laura Boudreaux, a pediatrician with the Baton Rouge Clinic, has some solid advice when it comes to gathering with family and friends. “As far as Thanksgiving is concerned, limiting gatherings to single families that live in the same house would be best at preventing spread of the virus,” she offers. “If families would still like to gather with other members that do not live in the home, then everyone should wear masks inside unless sitting to eat.”
Other advice she gives is that families who live together should be grouped at their own table, and then socially distance the different groups, if possible. She also says that if you can gather outside or open windows or doors to help ventilate the air, that will be helpful.

Family Meals at Thanksgiving
“With food sharing, buffet style would be best with everyone wearing masks while serving food,” Dr. Boudreaux says. “Wash your hands before going through the buffet line, and don’t touch anyone else’s food or drinks. It’s also advised not to pass bread around the table.” 

Being Without Others
As far as the mental and emotional impact isolation is having on people, Dr. Boudreaux agrees with the practice of using technology to stay in touch with distant family and friends. “Zoom and Facetime those loved ones who are isolated due to increased risk for disease,” says Dr. Boudreaux.

Tantzen says that her kids were bummed that they had to cancel trips to California. “But, they understand this is a different year and that we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to keep everyone safe. They are really close and get along great, so I’m lucky that they have each other as playmates.”

The holidays are going to look a lot different, but if we play it safe, they will still be the most joyous time of the year. ■

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