Zoom is getting rid of 40-minute meeting limit on Thanksgiving

Scott Stump
·3 min read

Zoom is making sure Thanksgiving doesn't get cut short for families who can't be together on the holiday this year.

The popular video conferencing service has announced that it will be lifting its 40-minute limit for all Zoom meetings from midnight EST on Nov. 26 to 6 a.m. EST on Nov. 27 so families and friends will not be restricted on how long they can chat.

Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.

Zoom usually restricts video chats to 40 minutes for free users of the platform but provides unlimited time to paying subscribers of its premium service.

The technology has become ubiquitous since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. in March. Businesses use Zoom to hold virtual meetings, children utilize the platform for remote learning while schools have been closed, people stay in shape with exercise classes broadcast over Zoom and even couples have gotten married through Zoom.

It also has become a lifeline for families and friends to stay in touch as travel has been discouraged by medical experts and government officials in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Using Zoom to stay connected with family has also been magnified ahead of the holidays due to the explosion of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the country in the last month. Health experts are urging Americans to limit the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings and hold celebrations outdoors in warmer areas.

NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen shared tips on TODAY Monday about how to hold a virtual Thanksgiving with family and avoid the frustration of a large group of people on Zoom all talking over one another.

"I have an idea, it's Thanksgiving in shifts," Nguyen said. "So you do appetizers with one family, then you connect with another over a toast, maybe a third at dessert time. That way you feel like you're having some quality time and it's not everybody all at once."

Nguyen also suggested sharing recipes via Zoom and virtually showing off the finished product, or dropping off a dish at a nearby relative's house.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on holiday celebrations last month, recommending that people limit contact with those outside their home for 14 days before attending a get-together, as well as shortening the duration of holiday gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Activities like shopping in crowded stores, attending crowded parades, and attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside your household are considered high risk by the CDC.

The tension over being invited to a large gathering and feeling skittish about attending is being felt across the country this year.

"Be polite, be firm and be honest about it," Nguyen said about tactfully declining the invitation. "You're never gonna have a better excuse to get out of Thanksgiving than a worldwide pandemic."

Related: Staying put due to COVID-19? Here's how to let them down with love.

The lowest-risk options recommended by the CDC on Thanksgiving include having a small dinner with only the people in your household, a virtual dinner with family and friends, delivering food to family and friends without person-to-person contact and shopping online on Black Friday.

"The lowest level of risk is limiting your gathering to the unit you're sheltering with already," Dr. Patrick Kachur, a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, told TODAY last month.

"Thanksgiving is not the time to expand your bubble."