COVID-19 and Thanksgiving: How to stay safe this holiday season

single-meta-cal November 19, 2020

With COVID-19 spreading in our community, Thanksgiving this year may not be the Norman Rockwell affair you were expecting.

But not all is lost. While CDC and state health experts advise against large gatherings this holiday season, there are still ways you can enjoy Thanksgiving without spreading COVID-19.

“We all want to see our family for holidays, yet this is a special year when we need to minimize risks because of the consequences of this highly infectious virus,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “Use your best judgment to plan the safest possible Thanksgiving.”

Looking for ways you can celebrate the holiday while protecting yourself and others? Here are a few ideas:

  • Get outside.

If possible, have your holiday celebration outdoors rather than inside. Why? Because crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons not in your household pose a significantly larger risk of spreading COVID-19.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says you can increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.

  • Practice physical distancing.

If using an open air pop-up tent (preferred), be sure to seat guests at least 6 feet apart. ADPH said those using enclosed tents should consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12” of each sidewall to increase ventilation.

  • Require masks.

Nobody likes wearing a face cover, but, until a vaccine is available, they’re one of our best tools for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking,” ADPH said. “It is also important to stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not in your household at all times.”

  • Reduce contact with high-touch items.

That means you should limit commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils.

“In food preparation, it would be best to not have people all in one particular spot, going down the buffet and utilizing the same servingware,” said Madison County Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers.

Consider pre-plating food, instead. Hosts should also clean and disinfect surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.

If available, use touchless garbage cans to limit the spread of virus particles. Hosts should then wear gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash.

  • Encourage frequent handwashing. 

Throughout the event, ask your guests to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will also work in a pinch.

  • Stay home if sick. 

If you’re having symptoms of COVID-19, have been diagnosed with the virus and have not yet met the criteria for when it’s safe to be around others, or are waiting for COVID-19 test results, please stay home.

You should also sit out if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last two weeks or you’re at an increased risk of severe illness from the virus.


Those seeking alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving can participate in lower-risk activities:

  • Keep it small. Have a dinner at home with only people who live in your household.
  • Do a good deed. Prepare traditional recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and deliver them in a way that does not involve contact with others.
  • Go virtual. Host a virtual dinner and share recipes with friends and family.
  • Skip the stores. Shop online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday.
  • Have fun! Watch sports events, parades, and movies from home.


For more tips, visit ADPH’s website.