ADPH urges caution during Thanksgiving, recommends virtual dinners

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — With Thanksgiving around the corner, the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging people to make smart decisions to not catch COVID-19.

Much of this involves weighing the risk of infection in family gatherings against the benefits.

“We all want to see our family for holidays, yet this is a special year when we need to minimize risks because of the consequences of this highly infectious virus,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “Use your best judgment to plan the safest possible Thanksgiving. Consider hosting a virtual celebration, or if hosting or attending one, be sure to put prevention measures in place.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some updated guidelines about holiday celebrations, which are expected to make things worse for the accelerating pandemic in the United States.

First, you are more at risk for infection when you travel long distances. As such, the CDC does not recommend going to or coming from high-risk areas. You can be at risk for infection at airports, gas stations, rest stops, and public transportation.

Furthermore, those at high-risk for the severe effects of COVID-19 should avoid gatherings outside their household.

If you are at a smaller gather, you face a lesser risk of infection, but the CDC says you need to take the following factors into consideration:

  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings with little ventilation are riskier than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. While the CDC doesn’t have a size limit to gatherings, it does say the ability of people from different households to stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow health and safety laws, rules, and regulations should be considered.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – If attendees did not follow guidelines before the gathering, they pose more risk than those who did.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gathering that follow the guidelines are safer than those where fewer or no preventive measures are being followed. The consumption of alcohol or drugs can affect a person’s commitment to following COVID-19 guidelines.

You should not attend or hold a holiday celebration if you or anyone in your household has an active case of COVID-19, symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, may be exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or is at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Other things to do are:

  • Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times and avoid physical contact.
  • Increase ventilation for indoor gatherings by opening windows and doors when possible or keep central air and heating on the whole time.
  • Outdoor seating under a pop-up open air tent should be arranged with physical distancing in mind. Keep in mind that enclosed 4-wall tents will have less air circulation. Try leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12” of each sidewall to enhance ventilation.
  • Require guests to wear masks.
  • Keep guests from singing or shouting, especially indoors. Music should be low to keep conversations at a normal volume.
  • Encourage proper handwashing or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Provide information on safety guidelines and what steps you’re taking prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils. Clean them them between use when possible.
  • Use touchless garbage cans, and use gloves when removing bags and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Asking guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for two weeks prior to the celebration.
  • Don’t let pets interact with people outside the household.

Certain activities are riskier than others. Here’s how the CDC has graded them

Lower risk activities

  • Having a small dinner with the household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors for delivery
  • Having a virtual dinner
  • Shopping online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies at home

Moderate risk activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends in the community
  • Visiting 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
  • Going to small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place

Higher risk activities

  • Participating or being a spectator at a race
  • Going shopping in crowded stores
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household

You can read more on the CDC’s guidelines at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

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