Planning a SAFER Holiday Gathering

Sandra Kirk

Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday. I love planning and preparing the meal together and watching my family enjoy it. But mostly I love the relaxed time to visit and play games. Given this year’s challenges that COVID-19 has introduced, I’m rethinking how to host a family
gathering safely. The CDC has offered some great tips for doing this.

When planning to host a holiday celebration, you should assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees. Don’t forget to consider COVID-19 levels in locations that your guests will be coming from.
Information on the number of cases in an area can be found on the area’s health department website.

Here are a few ideas of how to manage the risk.

LOCATION – Move your gathering outdoors. If you must be indoors, remember that gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.

• LENGTH – Consider shortening the length of your gathering. Those that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.

• SIZE – Host a smaller gathering. More guests increases the risk of spread. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings.

• CLOSE CONTACT Reduce or limit close contact between attendees. You might want to create a COVID-19 friendly way to greet one another such as an air hug.

• PROXIMITY – Celebrate with those living nearby. Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19

• RISKY BEHAVIORS – Think about who’s attending and their adherence to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, and hand washing. Chances are that those who don’t practice these recommendations now are not going to suddenly start practicing them at your gathering.

• PREPARE – Put the systems in place to host a safer gathering. Explain to guests ahead of time that you will expect everyone to wear a mask while not eating or drinking and social distance. Provide masks for those who forgot. Stock your bathroom with hand soap and paper towels. Wipe down all commonly touched surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer in easy to access locations. Avoid the
use of alcohol, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors.

If you have decided not to host a Thanksgiving gathering, there are alternatives.

• Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.

• Have a virtual dinner and recipe sharing with friends and family

• If shopping is part of your Thanksgiving weekend tradition, do it online rather than in person.

• Watch sports events, parades, and movies from home.

• Visit pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people can maintain social distancing

• Attend a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.

Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household…
• has been diagnosed with COVID-19

• is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results

• may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days

• is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Following these guidelines can help us all celebrate a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Blessings to you!
For more information contact Terrie James at the Hempstead County Extension Office,


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