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
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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