Kicking off the Holiday Season Safely

Public health officials are encouraging Wisconsinites to rethink their Thanksgiving traditions this November, especially as the number of COVID cases keeps climbing across the country and infection rates remain high in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.

It is all about having a homebound mindset with gatherings this holiday season.

“Ideally, it will be best to keep your guest list as short as possible this year,” said Long Nguyen, DO, family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma. ThedaCare is a Be Safe Wisconsin partner. “Try to limit it to the people with whom you live or with whom you have established a ‘pandemic or quarantine bubble.’”

No more than 10 people at home gatherings is recommended to minimize the spread of the virus. Public health officials suggest having even fewer people in one room, setting up socially distanced tables and shorten the celebration time to reduce the likelihood of transmission of germs, keeping these stay-safe “basics” top of mind.

  • Wear face coverings indoors, especially when making toasts and greeting others. Only remove when eating.
  • Watch your distance, staying 6 feet apart in the room, even around the dinner table.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

Also, keep the air circulating inside, especially while eating when masks are off.

“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.”

In addition, physicians recommend limiting the number of people in the kitchen when the food is being prepared and then having one person serve the food rather than having a buffet or family-style dinner. That person should wear a mask and gloves.

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

For those avoiding gatherings altogether, there are plenty of ways to stay connected with family and friends and even start new traditions with members of your household as you choose to stay safe at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has these suggestions for the extended holiday weekend.

Gather Virtually

  • Schedule a time to share a meal together with friends and family via FaceTime or Zoom.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing or other dishes they prepared.
  • Watch television “together” – parades and sports – and connect following the event for a recap.
  • Play a game online together.

Shop Safely

  • 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.

Share Safely

  • 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, even leaving them at their front door.

Find other ways the CDC suggests Celebrating Thanksgiving safely.

You can stay aware of how COVID-19 is spreading across the state via the Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 Tracker, noting numbers by county.  Also, visit the websites of your county or city public health department for the latest information important to celebrating safely this Thanksgiving. These are all Be Safe Wisconsin partners.

Taking precautions now will help you enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

This Thanksgiving might look and feel different, but don’t forget the meaning behind it: giving thanks. And in doing so, you can improve your mental health. Experts say by expressing gratitude and gratefulness, you can improve coping 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,” noted Dr. Nguyen.