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Thanksgiving during COVID-19

More than 12.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States with over 255k deaths as reported by the CDC. In Massachusetts, we have 201,835 confirmed cases. And in our little town of Blackstone, we have 154 confirmed cases with 129 cleared as of November 23, 2020. Blackstone has had 4 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Clearly, COVID-19 is here and still surging more than ever and it has made Thanksgiving and the whole holiday season a perilous time. As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States and in Blackstone, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. Even the CDC says that gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

Knowing that more than 1 million people flew through U.S. airports last Friday, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration, has fueled fears of even greater spread of the virus. It was the second-heaviest domestic air traffic day since the start of the pandemic, despite pleas from health officials for Americans to stay home.

It is important to remember that even a small gathering with multiple households in attendance can pose a threat to our community. In Maine, a wedding with 55 people in attendance became a super spreader event that resulted in 177 people testing positive for COVID-19 and 7 deaths. The 7 deaths were people who didn’t even attend the wedding. The risks we take individually have the potential to cause harm to those we love so whatever you may be doing for Thanksgiving, we urge you to exercise caution and follow health and safety guidelines. You can enjoy Thanksgiving activities and still take steps to protect yourself and others.

Guidelines for Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, COVID-19 doesn’t take holidays off. So as we are seeing record numbers of daily infections across the country – its important to look into health guidelines. As Massachusetts residents plan for the Thanksgiving holiday, we offer the following considerations to keep our friends, families, and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you host a holiday celebration, keep it small.


If you are considering travel, be aware of Massachusetts travel orders. Effective August 1, 2020, all visitors and returning residents entering Massachusetts must follow new travel orders. The Commonwealth has made great progress to slow the spread of COVID-19 and gradually re-open the economy, and all visitors have a responsibility to help us keep the transmission levels as low as possible.

Per CDC guidelines, if you do travel:

  • Check travel restrictions before you go
  • Get your flu shot before you travel
  • Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people you don’t live with
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer
  • Know when to delay your travel

If you participate in a celebration, follow public health guidance

Anytime you’re near people you don’t live with:

  • Wear a mask when not eating or drinking
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Stay at least six feet apart from others
  • Consider if those around you may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions, and take extra precautions
  • If gathering indoors, improve ventilation by opening windows and doors

CDC provides the following Guidelines when:

Attending a Gathering

Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.

If you choose to attend a gathering, make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps if attending a Thanksgiving gathering:

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering

Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.

If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. These steps include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

Consider Other Thanksgiving Activities

Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you

illustration of a young family enjoying a virtual meal with an older couple
  • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.

Watch television and play games with people in your household

  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
  • Find a fun game to play.


  • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
  • Use contactless services for purchased items, like curbside pick-up.
  • Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others and wear a mask.

Other Activities

  • Safely prepare traditional dishes and deliver them to family and neighbors in a way that does not involve contact with others (for example, leave them on the porch).
  • Participate in a gratitude activity, like writing down things you are grateful for and sharing with your friends and family.

Important Considerations

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in your community and in the community where you plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a holiday celebration. Find information on cases in Massachusetts cities and towns and information on cases across the United States.
  • People with or exposed to COVID-19 should avoid attending in-person celebrations. Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household:
    • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
    • Has symptoms of COVID-19
    • Is awaiting COVID-19 viral test results
    • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
    • Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions
  • Celebrating with your loved one in a long-term care or congregate care setting – ​There are important considerations when planning celebrations with a loved one who lives in a congregate setting​, as many people living in these settings are at higher risk of becoming sick or severely ill from COVID-19. EOHHS is offering considerations and recommendations on how to safely celebrate with a loved one in a congregate setting in a letter to families.​

All Massachusetts are residents are also encouraged to get the flu vaccine. For additional information, please refer to the holiday guidance provided by the CDC.

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