A family celebrating thanksgiving and cooking together
A family celebrating thanksgiving and cooking together
A family celebrating thanksgiving and cooking together

Planning for Thanksgiving During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Featured Experts:

Recipe for a Safer ‘Turkey Day’

For many, Thanksgiving is about family, football and feasting. Some also see it as the kick-off for December holiday gift shopping. But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic calls for thoughtful planning and consideration of safer alternatives to family gatherings and joining the crowds on Black Friday. Due to the current surge in infections across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you celebrate the holiday at home, only with those who live with you, and avoid holiday travel.

Brian Garibaldi, director of Johns Hopkins’ biocontainment unit and expert in containment of contagious disease, provides some insight on how to make Thanksgiving special while avoiding coronavirus infection.

Take an Extra Helping of Precautions

Father watching his children wash their hands

By now, you’re probably familiar with how to prevent infection through physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand hygiene and monitoring your health. Keep it up! Staying vigilant with proven coronavirus precautions like these can ensure you have only happy memories of this Thanksgiving.

Celebrate at Home

Family watching TV on a couch

Traveling “over the river and through the woods” is a big part of a fun, traditional Thanksgiving. It has been a long year, and everyone yearns to visit friends and family members we don’t see regularly. But for this Thanksgiving, staying home (and at least 6 feet apart from people outside your immediate household) is essential, since family get-togethers, especially large ones, are contributing to coronavirus spread. With the pandemic getting worse in the U.S. and COVID-19 cases on the rise across the country this fall and winter, a loving hug or indoor gathering could put your loved ones — or someone else’s — at risk and overwhelm local health care facilities. Follow these CDC guidelines.

Is it safe to host Thanksgiving during the coronavirus pandemic?

Avoid Travel

 family at thanksgiving dinner

Traveling is not recommended during the current surge in coronavirus cases. Planes, trains and buses might be crowded over the holiday weekend, making them ideal environments for transmitting the coronavirus. Traveling to or from certain states in the U.S. may be restricted. You might have to quarantine when you arrive. If it’s not possible to postpone your visit, check with the CDC’s travel information and health advisories in your destination and home state, make sure you’ve received a flu shot, and be rigorous in your physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand hygiene.

Involve Older Family Members

Grandmother using her cellphone

Older people are more likely than younger people to have a serious coronavirus infection. The pandemic can leave them feeling isolated. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reach out to older kin and invite them to share their Thanksgiving recipes, pictures, stories and memories. Letters and cards, especially from children, are a good way to lift the spirits of older people who will spend this Thanksgiving apart.

Emphasize the Great Outdoors

Boy throwing a football outside during winter

If you live in a part of the country that still enjoys pleasant weather in November, take advantage. When it comes to spreading COVID-19, small, outdoor gatherings with those in your family or community are safer than those taking place inside. As long as you’re staying at least 6 feet apart, dining al fresco, tossing the football or going for a brisk walk to burn off those extra potatoes are possible activities to enjoy with others.

Use Technology to Get Everyone Together

Parents and children surrounding a tablet on a video call

If you haven’t yet used an online meeting platform to get family and friends together, now is the time to try it. Gathering online is the safest alternative to in-person parties and celebrations, which are a major source for spreading the coronavirus. Dress up your table and show off your cooking and décor. Offer older family members a quick tutorial in advance to help them attend and feel included.

Keep Conversation Positive

A family gathered around a table during thanksgiving

Family members’ differences of opinion at the Thanksgiving dinner table are almost a tradition in themselves, but this year, consider giving it a break. Stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic has many people on edge, and being gentle with one another, staying upbeat and steering conversation to neutral topics can give everyone a much-needed holiday from conflict.

Should college students quarantine if they come home for Thanksgiving?

Celebrating Thanksgiving will be different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Learn what safety guidelines you need to follow if a student returns home from college for the holiday.

Do Black Friday Cyber-style

Woman using her laptop on a table

If hitting the Black Friday sales is part of your after-Thanksgiving tradition, bargain hunting online helps you avoid crowded stores that can set the stage for coronavirus transmission. Once your purchases arrive, plan an online get-together with friends to toast the holiday with a festive beverage and show off the deals you’ve scored.

Keep Things in Perspective

Young woman holding a mug looking outside the window

This year’s Thanksgiving is likely to be unique. By this time next year, we hope to see progress on coronavirus vaccines and COVID-19 treatments that can help us reconvene safely around the table with our families and friends when the holidays return in 2021. So, just this once, it pays to approach Thanksgiving differently.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Mother hugging her son

Thanksgiving is a holiday to reflect on the many gifts life has to offer, including good health, good food, good relationships and family fun. Acts of kindness can impart a warm feeling and help children understand the meaning of the holiday. Try making a bird feeder, shoveling snow for a neighbor or writing cards to first responders who might be spending their Thanksgiving on the job.

Icon showing a sick woman with a cold press on her head

Flu Prevention During Coronavirus Pandemic

Fall and winter months bring the flu season. This infographic will tell you what you need to know to help protect you and your family from both the flu and COVID-19.

Updated November 19, 2020