So, This Is How To Do Thanksgiving (In A Pandemic)

Here's how to have your turkey, your family and your health too.

Life & Travel

How crazy is it that we're just days away from Thanksgiving? How even crazier is it that, at least most of us, are trying to figure out how to make this holiday happen when we're still—still, y'all—in the middle of a pandemic? Because let's be real. While when it comes to protecting our overall health and well-being, it would probably be best to sit this year out, since we've already made so many sacrifices, especially socially in 2020, I get that some of you may want to semi throw caution to the wind and share a meal with some of your loved ones anyway.

And that's just what we're gonna tackle today. If you're sick and tired of COVID-19 totally running your life and so you're gonna make Thanksgiving happen, one way or another, here are some things that can significantly decrease your chances of you or your people getting sick as a direct result.

1. Grocery Shop Carefully


Before we get into how to carefully handle the people who will be in your house, let's first get into the main reason they're coming over (other than to see you, of course)—the food! The last thing you want to do is have an awesome day with everyone, only for them to fall ill a few days later. So, have a clear shopping list (the less time that you're in the store, the better). Also, make sure that you try and go grocery shopping during a time when there is less "people traffic" (definitely not a couple of days before Thanksgiving or during the times when most people are off work). Always wear a mask and sanitize the handle of your grocery cart. Fresh produce vs. frozen or canned goods isn't that much of an issue (as far as which is safer when it comes to avoiding COVID-19); however, do make sure that when you get home that you wipe off cans, that you thoroughly rinse your produce and that the foods that needs to be refrigerated are put into a fridge that is set at 40 degrees (your freezer needs to be zero degrees) Fahrenheit. Doing this will decrease the chances of foodborne pathogens developing.

2. Prep Your Home

While you're cooking, clean all surfaces constantly (with soap and water; then follow that up with a disinfectant). Contamination can spread quicker than you might think, so wiping down counters and swapping out dishrags for different things (like use one for dishes and another for cleaning your stove) that you're preparing is important. Oh, and also be intentional about cleaning anything that folks will be touching a lot including door handles, tables, faucets and light switches. While you won't have time to follow up behind everyone the entire time, wiping these things down right before company arrives, once during their visit and again after everyone leaves is a good practice.

So that air can be well-ventilated throughout your house, crack open a few windows. You also might want to turn on a humidifier in the space where most people will be hanging out. Aside from the fact that indoor air pollution is automatically 3-5 times worse than anything that's happening outside, dry and poorly ventilated areas also make it easier for germs to spread. I actually read that using a humidifier in the wintertime can lower your risk of getting COVID-19. The more you know, chile.

3. Avoid Potlucking


Here's the thing about potluck. While, on one hand, it takes the burden off of you having to cook as much, the flip side is you don't always know if other people are as semi-OCD as you are when it comes to cleanliness. While this is great food for thought, no matter what, it's especially important to keep this in mind during this pandemic. So, unless you are absolutely at peace with someone bringing a homemade dish, request that your guests bring pre-packaged items like drinks, paper products—stuff like that.

Also, you might want to avoid going the takeout route this Thanksgiving as well. Although I actually wrote an article for the platform earlier this year entitled, "10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)", restaurants tend to be slammed during the holiday season, and while it would be wonderful if they were all as cautious as we are with following COVID-19 cleaning protocols, assuming that they are is a risk that you might not wanna take. Because, after all, the only person you can ever truly be sure about is yourself. Right?

4. Go the Paper Products Route

As far as serving your meal to your guests, while properly washing (or dishwashing) dishes and utensils typically knocks out most germs, take extra precaution this year and consider going the paper and plastic products route. That way, people can throw away their plates, forks and cups once they are done. As a bonus, you won't have to do as much clean-up once everyone is gone.

If that is way too "low-end" for you, just make sure that you clean and disinfect every item that you and your guests use. By the way, running your pans, dishes and utensils through a dishwasher is considered to be the most effective for getting rid of germs while letting everything air dry is a fair follow-up alternative. Whatever you do, just make sure to avoid using the same towel for drying everything. Out of all of the drying options, that one basically sucks at preventing germs from spreading.

5. Cut the “Body Count” Down


One of the reasons why a lot of kids continually get sick in daycares is because there are so many of them in a tight space. Five children in a big room is very different than 20 in a smaller one. This line of thinking brings us to my next point. If you have a small gathering of 5-7 people (especially if you live in an apartment or a smaller house), that makes it so much easier for everyone to socially distance than if you've got a houseful. Listen, already opting to host Thanksgiving, in your home, during a pandemic, is a pretty bold feat. Don't you dare feel bad or guilty that you can't invite as many folks as usual. You've still gotta go to work on Monday. The lower your body count is, the better—for all parties involved.

6. Avoid Folks Who Haven’t Been “Acting Right”

I can count on one hand, the amount of people who've been in my home ever (chalk it up to the ambivert in me). Anyway, there is one person, in particular, I had to "put on punishment" because when I tell you that they are out here in these streets, like there isn't a pandemic happening, right at this very moment? Whew. My point? People who aren't wearing masks. Folks who haven't been social distancing. Anyone who even hints at having a fever or cold symptoms. Someone who has recently traveled and hasn't quarantined at all. These are the kinds of people who should skip out on Thanksgiving at your house this year. One workaround is to have them check in on Zoom, Skype or Google Hangout. While it won't be exactly the same, it's safer which ultimately makes it all good.

7. Establish a Strong Hygiene Protocol


Once people step into your house, consider having them take their shoes off and leaving them at the door (so that germs aren't tracked throughout your home). Have some hand sanitizer waiting at the door and/or ask them to wash their hands before actually getting comfortable. When it comes to sneezing and coughing, a minimal amount of that is natural, even when someone is well. That said, make sure that there are tissues on tap and maybe even cough drops or warm tea and honey so that your guests' coughing reflex can be calmed down; the less sneezing and coughing, the less particles of spit that ends up flying around. If there are kids who are coming, make sure that someone sees that they wash their hands before leaving the bathroom, and definitely have no problem with encouraging social distancing, especially if you are hosting indoors.

8. Consider Having Thanksgiving Outdoors

In many cases across the country, global warming has been showing all the way out. A silver lining in this is it's been proven that being around people outdoors (when you're social distancing, of course) is exponentially safer than when you're spending time with them while being inside of a space. So, if the weather permits, why not host Thanksgiving outdoors? Put a picnic table in your backyard (if you've got a backyard) and spread the seats apart. If you like this idea but you're worried that it will be way too cold come the end of November, you can always move Thanksgiving up a bit. Hey, nothing about this year has been conventional. I don't think folks will trip too much about having Thanksgiving dinner with you a week early and then being able to chill at their home on actual Thanksgiving Day.

9. Limit the Time Spent


Here's the thing about COVID-19—the longer that you spend time around an infected individual, the more you significantly increase your chances of them transmitting the virus onto you.

According to the CDC, if you spend more than 15 minutes, in close proximity with someone who has COVID-19, you significantly increase your chances of them passing the virus on to you.

Look, we all know that none of us are interested in doing a drive-by Thanksgiving. However, this is a good enough reason to again implement social distancing and to not having folks at your crib from noon until midnight.

10. If You’re Flying, Follow CDC Guidelines

So, what if you're not the one who is hosting Thanksgiving but instead, you're traveling to be with relatives or friends this year? Definitely keep your immune system up in the days leading up to your fly out date (check out "Ready To Try 10 Quick & Easy Immune-Boosting Hacks?" and "10 All-Natural Ways To Avoid Catching A Cold"). If you want to take a test before you leave, many Walgreens and CVS stores offer the service (although it's not the cheapest; CVS is around $140, I believe). Be sure to wear a mask at the airport as well as during the flight. Don't forget to have some hand sanitizer (one that contains around 60 percent alcohol) on tap. While traveling, try and socially distance (remain two arm lengths apart) as much as you can, that you avoid touching others and that you keep your hands off of your eyes, nose and mouth. (For more info on CDC travel guidelines, click here.)

Oh, if you decide to take a road trip instead, have some disinfecting wipes so that you can wipe down any ATMs or gas pumps that you may come into contact with.

And finally, if you feel, even a little bit under the weather, within 48 hours before traveling, strongly consider not going. Again, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

I know this all might be a bit "much" compared to years past. Yet I'm confident that if you stick to these 10 tips, you can have a pretty normal Thanksgiving. And after all that 2020 brought our way…"normal" is outstanding.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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