Public Health Expert's Simple Tips On Staying COVID-Free While Enjoying Thanksgiving

Though COVID-19 precautions have greatly eased since the pandemic began, people are still contracting the virus. According to the CDC, there were 39,016 cases in the week of November 2, 2022, which is a 4.7% increase from the previous week. There are also eight variants of the virus predominantly circulating.

While many people have already contracted COVID, once, twice or more times and have recovered, many others have gotten long COVID, or encountered serious complications leading to hospitalization, and sadly people still do die from the virus. ABC News reports that close to 400 people die each day in the U.S. from COVID, with the majority of deaths being those over 65 years old.

When gathering for holidays, it's vital to take every precaution we can to protect the vulnerable people in the group, including the elderly, the very young, pregnant people, and those with underlying health conditions. Of course, no one wants to get COVID and there are specific steps to take this Thanksgiving when gathering with family and friends.

Take these precautions during Thanksgiving get-togethers

Public health expert and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen says there are several ways to lower the risk of spreading and contracting COVID during Thanksgiving (via CNN). The number one thing to do to protect yourself is to get the vaccine and be up-to-date on the boosters. However, you can still contract and spread the virus when vaccinated, so mitigation efforts are still necessary.

Asking guests to wear masks in the days leading up to Thanksgiving helps and requiring a COVID test the day of is also a good measure. Dr. Wen says, "Just before the gathering, everyone should take a Covid-19 test."

A PCR test is the most accurate but requires a few days to get results (via Today). An at-home test (antigen) gives instant results but depends largely on how the test is performed. A combination of the two works well says infectious disease specialist Dr. Scott Weisenberg, "You can still consider getting a PCR test the day or two before and then doing an antigen test right before (the event)."

When considering the space you'll be in, it's still ideal to have an outdoor gathering. The next best thing is to keep windows and doors open and circulate the air or use fans and HEPA filters.

Vulnerable family members may want to wear a mask during the socializing portion of the day. Finally, another way to keep potential spread down is to keep gatherings small to minimize the risk.