Is it safe to see family over Thanksgiving? And other holiday pandemic tips.


I received so many messages from my last post, and I figured it would be useful to perhaps answer some of them for all to see.

Is it safe to see family over Thanksgiving?

Yes. If you live with them. That’s it. The only potentially safe alternative is requiring guests to self-quarantine at home for two weeks prior. Unfortunately, it’s already less than a week until Thanksgiving. And the reason I said “potentially” is that we go back to the issue of trust. Self-quarantine means not leaving the house. No interactions with others. So unless you have the ability to monitor someone’s every move and assure yourself that those guests are not exposing themselves to the virus, then feel free. But in the meantime, it’s not safe to have guests or be a guest at someone else’s home.

Masks work, right? So why all the fuss?

Because wearing masks is not perfect, and frankly, neither is the mask’s wearer (you!). People keep pulling them down or taking them off (especially for eating/drinking). Staying away from people is truly the only way to stop spreading germs. Masks do work, but only for those circumstances in which you absolutely must leave the house.

I see so many people on Facebook and Instagram posting pictures of social events. Why do they get to go be “normal”?

I don’t know. Sometimes people make bad decisions that do not consider the social and moral contract that I, as a physician and a fellow human, think we all should take. It makes me sad too. And very angry. Hot tip: If you are in a scenario where you want to take a group pic, you’re not safe. There is no room for group pics during COVID.

How about if I get tested right before I see family/friends for Thanksgiving?

Nope. You can still have the virus and not be positive on a test. Some folks turn positive literally the next day.

Great tips. I’m still going to visit family for Thanksgiving. How can I minimize my risk?

Frankly, the people that are getting COVID despite theoretically taking “every” precaution are those that are eating and drinking around each other. If you are eating and drinking around people, you’re taking your mask off and breathing in someone else’s air, even if it’s for a hot second. If you need to celebrate Thanksgiving with others, then you need wear masks at all times. You need to keep the party to fewer than 10 folks. Stay outside. Yeah, it’s cold. But being cold is much more comfortable than being on a ventilator. Use hand sanitizer. Stay at least 6 feet away even when eating. Read that again.

Don’t eat “family” or “buffet” style. One person should serve and scoop food. That’s a lot to remember, huh? So stay home. Make a new tradition. Stay in your jammies all day.

This feels so political.

Yeah. I know. It’s not. Science is real, which is cool because there’s no room for opinion or subjectivity. Listen to people who have trained in medicine and science.

Allison Ashford is a hospitalist.

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