family gathered around thanksgiving dinner table talking to others on a tablet

To Gather Or Not To Gather?

Follow These Tips for a COVID-Safe Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many people. Good food and fun times with family and friends make it a day for relaxing and enjoying the company of others. But with cases of COVID-19 on the rise throughout the country, many Americans are wondering if it’s safe to gather this year. Dr. Long Nguyen, Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma offers a few suggestions for celebrating safely.

Keep Your Guest List Short

Northeast and Central Wisconsin continue to have high rates of COVID-19 infection, which means large gatherings are not recommended by health experts.

“Ideally, it will be best to keep your guest list as short as possible this year,” Dr. Nguyen said, “Try to limit it to the people with whom you live or with whom you have established a “pandemic or quarantine bubble”. We also know that gathering outside is much safer, but unfortunately that’s not a likely option for Thanksgiving in Wisconsin.”

You should also be aware of the rate of COVID-19 infection in your area and in the areas from which your guests might be coming.

“It can be difficult because many of us have been distancing from friends and family over the past eight months, and holidays are typically a time to come together,” he said. “If the infection rates continue to remain high, the wisest choice may be to postpone a gathering of family or friends until a later time.”

The CDC recommends:

  • Limiting gatherings to 10 people or less
  • Hosting activities only with people from your local area as much as possible
  • Providing updated information to out-of-town guests about COVID-19 safety guidelines in place in your area
  • Asking guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering

Ventilate the Space

“We know that COVID-19 is spread primarily through droplets and aerosols that are released into the air when we breathe, talk, sing, etc., and that’s what makes indoor gatherings much riskier,” explained Dr. Nguyen. “I’d highly encourage people to open windows and turn on fans or air filters to keep the indoor air moving while guests are gathered.”

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces
  • Increasing ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather. (Suggest your guests bring a warm sweater, as your home may be chillier than normal.)

Make Necessary Adjustments

Wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing continue to be the primary ways to avoid COVID-19. For those planning to hold a holiday gathering, Dr. Nguyen offered these additional suggestions:

  • Limit the number of people in a room at one time
  • Set up socially distanced tables so there are fewer people gathered in a small area while eating
  • Have guests wear a mask when making toasts and greeting others
  • Have one person serve the food wearing a mask and gloves, rather than having a buffet or family-style dinner
  • Keep the celebration short

Of course, anyone who has been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, has symptoms of the disease, is waiting for test results or who may have been exposed in the last 14 days should not participate in any group gathering.

Take Precautions While Traveling

For those who must travel, the CDC and others recommend paying attention to the rates of infection in the places they plan to visit. The CDC offers an online COVID Data Tracker at

Beyond that awareness, the CDC recommends fliers book direct flights whenever possible to avoid layovers at other airports, wear a mask at all times and follow social distancing guidelines in security lines, etc. For those traveling on public transportation such as buses, trains or the subway, wearing a mask is again a must.

For those traveling by car, the CDC reminds everyone that stopping for food, gas or bathroom breaks will put them in close contact with others and recommends limiting stops as much as possible. It suggests bringing snacks and drinks from home or using drive-through restaurants for eating and having a good supply of hand sanitizer on hand. When fueling cars, use disinfectant wipes to wipe down the handles and buttons on the gas pump before using them or wear disposable gloves – and throw them away immediately afterward.

Find Black Friday Deals Online

Dr. Nguyen also noted that Thanksgiving weekend is a popular holiday shopping time and suggested shoppers rethink their plans.

“The CDC and others strongly suggest avoiding crowded stores,” said Dr. Nguyen. “This is the year to make other plans to accomplish your holiday shopping – consider more online shopping or shop during non-peak hours. And, of course, always wear a mask in public.”

Practice Gratitude

Lastly, Dr. Nguyen reminded all that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.

“While it’s been a difficult year for all and anxiety is often high, it’s important to remember to be grateful for the blessings we have,” he said. “Experts recommend that expressing gratitude and gratefulness can help cope with anxiety and stress. Let’s all try our best to replace those anxious thoughts by focusing on the good things happening in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for.”

For a full list of Thanksgiving COVID-19 safety recommendations, visit