It's not too late to change plans. Consider meeting for a walk and dish exchange, and then enjoying the meal virtually together for as long and as boisterously as you'd like in the safety of your own homes.
If combining households is inevitable, improving ventilation and wearing masks are two of the most important steps you can take.
You can also space out table settings (or better yet, rooms) and limit time in close contact by taking regular walking breaks.
Remember you can control you, and setting boundaries that make you feel more comfortable is both helpful for your peace of mind and the group's overall risk.
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I moved back in with my parents, who are in their 60s, early in the pandemic. My aunt, uncle, and cousin, who live about an hour and a half away, are coming over for Thanksgiving. We've only seen them a handful of times this year, in the summer when we could meet for backyard barbecues.
I know the overwhelming advice from health experts is to not mix households, but that's just not an option my family was willing to consider. Accepting that my relatives will be coming over, what can we do — or frankly, what can I do — to make the celebration as safe as possible?
— Jenna, Kansas City
You're right on the health pros' advice there, and your family isn't the only one who's not listening. An Insider poll conducted last week, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its plea, found 57% of Thanksgiving celebrations in the US would including folks from at least two households. I'm one of them.
I like to think that doesn't mean we're all selfish, reckless, science-snubbing murderers, but that we're emotionally exhausted and are willing to accept a risk to feed our connection-starved souls.
As a health journalist, I must say: There's still time to uninvite your relatives, maybe even meeting halfway for a walk and to swap dishes. Then, when you return home, you could eat your meals together virtually, play games, and be as rambunctious as you'd like for as long as you'd like.
But I appreciate that changing your plans last-minute may not be an option. If so, there are some last-minute things you can do to lower your risk.
"I know we want to be together, we want to hug each other, kiss each other, but this year we may have to make some changes to these practices so we hope that maybe by next year we could have a more traditional reunion," Dr. Antonio Crespo, the medical director for Orlando Health Infectious Disease, told me. "This year we have to sacrifice a little bit."
Open windows and wear masks
First, open windows. Even if it's cold, or rainy, or snowing, or you have the heat on.
Proper ventilation can help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, since the virus spreads mostly via respiratory droplets — though it may also travel in smaller particles that can linger indoors. Enclosed settings, such as an indoor bar with no mechanical ventilation and typically closed entrances, have fueled superspreader events.
If you suspect your family or relatives will take issue with the draft, drape some blankets on chairs ahead of time. Cozy!
Next, wear a mask when you're not eating or drinking, and encourage — better yet, demand — everyone else does the same. Masks can help keep people indoors safe from the virus, like in the case of a salon in which the stylists had COVID-19 but didn't infect any of their 140 clients.
If it helps, think about it as a mindful eating technique: If you have to remove your mask every time you're tempted to graze or go back for seconds, you might think twice.
That could help cut down the length of the celebration — another key way to trim COVID-19 risk — and boost the coveted leftover quotient. Fifteen minutes is the rule-of-thumb length of time in close contact with others at which coronavirus transmission tips risky.
Take walks and set boundaries
When considering other ways to make the celebration safer, think about what makes Thanksgiving so risky.
"The quintessential Thanksgiving experience — gathering with friends and family, eating and talking boisterously around a table in a cozy room for hours — is the perfect recipe for an outbreak," Virginia Tech professor Linsey Marr, who studies how viruses and bacteria spread through the air, told the New York Times. (She's inviting her grandmother over, but outdoors on whatever day of the week turns out to be the most mild.)
Can you spread out your seating, even having your relatives sit in one room (like the old "kiddie table") while your immediate family sits in the other? If not, at least try to space out the place settings so that two people who don't live in the same household aren't facing, and spewing at, each other.
Can you challenge everyone to get up and take a walk every 30 minutes, which can help clear out the room of potentially contagious particles and limit your indoor close contact? Feeling less stuffed the next day will be the bonus.
The CDC also designating one person to serve food, using single-use plastic utensils, and cutting down on the number of people in the kitchen.
Finally, remember that even if no one complies with your suggestions or requests, you can control you. You can wear a mask, you can take intermittent walks, you can stay out of the kitchen if you're not the chef. Heck, you can excuse yourself from the whole celebration if you feel the benefits of the gathering are outweighed by the risk.
Each action or inaction will benefit your peace of mind and lower the group's collective risk. Consider it an exercise in boundary-setting, too.
"Everyone has a slightly different assessment of what is safe and what is not," Julie L. Pike, a licensed psychologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told me. "The most important thing about boundaries is that we can set them without anger or trying to convince other people of the validity of our needs."
Senior health reporter Anna Medaris Miller is here to help you make decisions about living life in the current "normal," which is anything but. Drawing on her in-depth reporting on the pandemic; connections with medical, mental health, and public health experts; and own life and common sense, she'll help you get through coronavirus quandaries big and small. Submit your questions for Anna anonymously here.
Read the original article on Insider