Like so much of this year, Thanksgiving is going to look very different than usual, for all of us. It has to, because although we are experiencing different levels of COVID fatigue, cases are rising rapidly across the country. Complacency is a luxury we do not have.
That said, it is important to take the time to be thankful, and there are ways to do that safely.
- Consider your social bubble. Gathering with the people in your household is the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Even so, please remember that your social bubble is not nearly as small as you think it is. Every person you interact with also has a social bubble—and spending time with one person means, essentially, you are spending time with all the people in his or her social bubble. It is a complicated rabbit hole, but the bottom line is this: You are exposed to more people than you think, either in person or via a few degrees of separation, so act accordingly by wearing your mask, washing your hands, and following other preventative procedures.
- Travel with extreme caution. On November 3, the New York State Department of Health issued interim guidance for travelers coming into or going out of the state. These guidelines include information on quarantine criteria and requirements, as well as exceptions for essential workers. We encourage everyone to seriously reflect on the pros and cons of travel, even to one of the contiguous states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont) before making a decision. If you do travel, the CDC suggests getting a flu shot before you leave, and regularly checking restrictions in New York State, as well as whichever state you are visiting.
- Is a gathering appropriate for you and your loved ones? If you are attending or hosting a dinner with family and friends, consider designating one or two people to prepare the food—and make sure those people are always wearing a mask. You might also suggest that each guest and/or household bring his/her/their own food and utensils to avoid unnecessary contamination. If you are providing plates, silverware, and condiments, the CDC recommends disposable items and single-use options, so everything can be safely discarded at the end of the meal. Don’t hesitate to talk about your expectations before going to someone’s home, or inviting people into yours.
- Follow basic preventative measures. Whether you’re staying home or gathering in a larger group, do not underestimate the necessity of wearing a mask. It should fit snugly against the sides of your face, and cover your nose and mouth. All cloth masks should have at least two layers of fabric. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; however, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Make sure you are regularly disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces—and don’t forget your cell phone!
As you’re weighing your options, do not underestimate the power of technology. Many families will enjoy a meal together virtually, perhaps after sharing recipes for traditional dishes so everyone can get a taste of the season without the added risk of spreading COVID-19. It will be different, and that will be challenging—but we have to remember that, if we remain vigilant, it will not be forever.
For the latest information on COVID-19 and Saratoga Hospital, please visit https://www.saratogahospital.org/covid19.