CDC recommends avoiding travel and family gatherings Thanksgiving, offers safety guidelines

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – While many plan Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings with families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against travel this year.

It has posted a list of safety suggestions for holiday gatherings, including only celebrating with those in your household.

For those who would like to celebrate with people outside of their households, it recommends asking everyone to strictly avoid contact with those outside of their households for 14 days before attending or hosting the gathering.

Family Medicine Physician Dr. Collis Barskdale said flu season tends to reach its peak after Thanksgiving, so he suggests only celebrating with people who live with you and visiting everyone else virtually.

“Generally the flu starts around late November/early December through February,” he said.

He said this year is particularly challenging due to the added risk of contracting COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously as more people gather indoors. He recommended exercising extreme caution and practicing social distancing and wearing masks whenever around anyone who doesn’t live with you, including family members who live in other households.

“I always say, presume that you have the virus or everyone around you has the virus,” Dr. Barksdale said.

To avoid contracting COVID-19 during any gathering, the CDC reports that it is safest to gather outside, but if you must stay indoors, it recommends that you make sure the room is large and well ventilated or open a window.

“When you cough or speak, you are obtaining particles of this virus that are floating around within the room,” he explained. “So at any given moment, if you’re in a confined space without any ventilation, you could inhale those particles.”

Dr. Barksdale suggested appointing one person to serve food, making sure that person washes their hands first and wears a mask. He also recommended giving everyone plastic utensils and reminding everyone to practice social distancing and wear a mask at all times except eating or drinking.

Grocery shopping during high traffic times ahead of Thanksgiving is a high risk situation too, he warned, and so he recommended having a plan and knowing what you’re going for to make the trip as short as possible.

The safest option, he said, is to shop online for Thanksgiving groceries and either have them delivered through a service or use a grocery store that allows you to pre-order and pick up items.

“Any situation where you’re going to have a large number of people at the same time is going to increase the risk significantly,” he said, also suggesting that people refrain from Black Friday shopping in person.

Dr. Barksdale also strongly recommended getting a flu shot before Thanksgiving gatherings and said it can take two weeks to become effective, because of the time it takes for your body to create antibodies to the flu virus.

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