Thanksgiving health and safety

Author: Laura Podesta / CBS Newspath

A recent survey finds many people are hesitant to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones who are unvaccinated for COVID-19. Experts say there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of getting or transmitting the virus during holiday gatherings.

Many families and friends looking to spend Thanksgiving together this year are wondering how to celebrate safely and whether to host a holiday gathering with loved ones who are unvaccinated for COVID-19.

A recent Harris poll of more than 2,000 people, including more than 1,400 who are vaccinated, shows half of vaccinated respondents are hesitant to spend the holidays with unvaccinated family and friends.

“If you take some pretty simple steps, you can actually get together with your family indoors without a mask. The risk will not be nil, but it will be much, much, much lower than it could be,” says Dr. William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Hanage puts vaccination at the top of that list. “If you’re not vaccinated or if you’re around people who aren’t for whatever reason, you can reduce risk by things like using rapid tests. People can take a rapid test before coming to the Thanksgiving meal,” he says.

Gather outdoors if possible, if you’re indoors, open the windows if the weather allows, and consider getting a HEPA air purifier. Dr. Hanage says it’s important to remember the risk is not the same for everyone. “If you’re going to a Thanksgiving party with older, vulnerable relatives, I do encourage you to make sure that you’re vaccinated to try and avoid becoming infected in the run-up, and to take a rapid test before you get in there because that will help ensure that you do not transmit the virus to people who can suffer severe disease, even those who are vaccinated.”

Danica Brown was looking forward to getting together with her entire extended family for Thanksgiving. But then she found out to receive an invite, she had to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

She says she was hesitant to get the vaccine “because it was so new.” But she decided to get the shot. “I literally got it to go to Thanksgiving dinner,” Danica says. She’s thankful to be spending the day with family this year.

Experts say we should expect to see a surge of COVID cases after Thanksgiving, but hopefully, the consequences will be different than last year because people who are vaccinated are more protected against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

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