The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
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The 2020 Pandemic Thanksgiving: Creating a “Safer” Setting for the Big Meal

The 2020 Pandemic Thanksgiving: Creating a “Safer” Setting for the Big Meal

What are some options for hosting a Thanksgiving meal with family and/or friends, while reducing some of the known risks associated with sharing meals? Infectious disease scientists are providing some common sense, evidence-based scenarios.

Here are some helpful tips you might want to consider:

  • Limit the gathering to 3 families, including the host family, and limit the duration of the event to 2 hours.
  • Schedule the dinner earlier in the day to take advantage of warmer temperatures and sunlight; keep guests outdoors for the duration of the gathering, if possible.
  • If you can enjoy a meal al fresco style, that is preferred. If not, use several rooms for seating such as the kitchen, dining room, and living room, rather than crowding around one large table. Be creative!
  • Consider using disposable, eco-friendly "china and silverware" instead of your fine china, eliminating contact with potentially contaminated plates, forks, etc.
  • Encourage handwashing before and after the meal. Have hand sanitizer easily available at the tables and provide disposable hand towels in the bathroom.
  • Skip the appetizers and go directly to the main meal to limit the amount of time people are together.
  • Avoid potluck-style meals this year; having one family or person control the food handling is preferred. Wash hands often, or consider wearing disposable gloves, especially prior to food handling; use paper towels for drying hands.
  • Keep the kitchen counter and food prep areas clean using a nontoxic cleaner and paper towels.
  • Have food prepared in advance and ready to serve. Maintain the proper food temperature or reheat prior to serving.
  • Avoid buffet-style serving. As an alternative, one person can plate the food to limit hand contact with utensils, and one person can bring the plated food to seated guests to limit additional close contact in the kitchen around the food.
  • Seat families or those within each other's "bubble" together for the meal.
  • Arrange the seating for the meal so there is space between guests. Use nametags at each place setting so guests know where to sit and avoid movement around the table.

This is quite a departure from the traditional Thanksgiving meal and family gatherings we have enjoyed over the years. However, these modifications reduce risk and allow us to enjoy a limited visit with loved ones during the pandemic.


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Filed under: Infectious Diseases, Public Health

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