How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely

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Sukhjot Sal Beaver's Digest Contributor

This Thanksgiving, there may be some empty seats at the table – but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay safely connected to our loved ones while stuffing ourselves on some warm, heart-filling food. 

With the two-week freeze Gov. Kate Brown implemented across Oregon, traveling or visiting people outside of the household for Thanksgiving has been even more discouraged than usual – and for good reason.

But don’t worry! There are super easy ways to protect yourself and your loved ones on Thanksgiving. With just a few safety tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be ready to feast in no time.

Dan Larson, vice provost for student affairs and Oregon State University’s coronavirus response coordinator, encourages everyone to review Oregon Health Authority’s guidance on making safety part of your holiday celebrations.

“It is important that everyone take precautions and practice personal and public health measures, such as wearing masks, maintaining distance, washing hands frequently, among other practices identified through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” Larson said in an email. “It is important for everyone to understand the risks of COVID-19 and take necessary precautions to care for family and friends.”

Jenny Haubenreiser works as executive director of Student Health Services and associate vice provost of Student Affairs. Thanksgiving celebrations are an important tradition, Haubenreiser acknowledged, and after the challenges of this past year, they represent an important time to reconnect and celebrate. 

But this year, these celebrations need to look different. 

“It is strongly recommended that we avoid traveling for Thanksgiving this year,” Haubenreiser said in an email. “We can incorporate favorite traditions in new ways, such as virtual dinner parties, having everyone enjoy a favorite recipe remotely, taking turns via Zoom sharing what people are grateful for in this most extraordinary year.”

Keeping all this in mind, Haubenreiser gave some helpful advice to keep those staying home safe while celebrating Thanksgiving.

First, if you are going to gather with friends and family, she recommends you plan in advance. Secondly, minimize your risk of exposure prior to Thanksgiving by reducing the number of people you are in close contact with before the holiday. And lastly, if possible, Haubenreiser encourages you to self-quarantine for 14 days before joining family and friends while keeping your distance from others once you arrive at the table.

If you are not travelling but will be alone on Thanksgiving, Haubenreiser reminds people that celebrating alone can be a rich or restorative time.

“Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely, but if you do start to feel isolated, reach out to a friend,” Haubenreiser urged. “Go outside, even if it’s raining. Take time to consider what matters most to you. Find a new podcast or audio book and listen to a good story.”

If you plan on traveling this Thanksgiving break, for any number of circumstances, keep in mind that there will be more risk and rules keeping you from your turkey. Haubenreiser shared some additional notes for staying safer and healthier for those of you who need to travel.

Comply with any government restrictions on size of gatherings in your geographic region, Haubenresier said. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in person, do so in a small group. In Oregon specifically, you should limit group size to no more than six people from no more than two households.

And as always – cover the basics. Maintain at least six feet of separation from others, both indoors and outdoors. Wear a face cover when around others, unless you’re eating or drinking. During travel, take safety precautions by carrying and frequently using alcohol hand sanitizer – at least 60% – and clean all touchable surfaces you come in contact with.

All of these decisions are dependent on COVID-19 testing and the detection of symptoms. Haubenreiser reminds people that many who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. And even if you have been tested, negative results are not always accurate.

“So as much as we value togetherness, what is most important is the health and safety of our community – this is our primary value within Beaver Nation,” Haubenreiser said. “We know the only way through the pandemic is for everyone to protect themselves and those around them. This means doing what we know will help prevent the spread of infection, including avoiding travel or visiting others, particularly if there is someone who may be more vulnerable to serious disease.”

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Haubenreiser urges people to consider helping those who have faced hardship this year by having a meal or grocery order delivered to someone who is alone or facing hardship from the pandemic. 

Not everyone has a loved one nearby, let alone in the same household – if you are able to, spend a little money to make someone else feel less alone. Consider donating to a food pantry in your local community, make holiday cards for older folks in long-term care homes, donate meals to a local church or volunteer at a nearby food bank.

“The holidays are about the care and connection we have with others,” Haubenreiser noted. “So in this spirit, let’s do whatever we can to protect our community.”

So whether you’re staying home or braving the outside world to reach your loved ones, let’s all remember who we’re thankful for, and do our best to keep them safe. The more we protect our loved ones now, the more Thanksgivings we’ll have with them in the future.

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