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What’s Safe, What’s Not, If You Host Thanksgiving During COVID-19

November 16, 2020

By Keith Grant, APRN
Senior Director of Infection Prevention
Hartford HealthCare

At this time every year, Thanksgiving planning jumps to the top of our to-do lists. What size turkey? Where to put the children’s table? How to keep politics from spoiling the dinner conversation?

This year, the question has turned from stuffing or mashed potatoes to if and how we can celebrate this most iconic of American holidays in this global pandemic.

As the chief infection prevention officer at Hartford HealthCare and a father of two with a large extended family, I have been wrestling with this question personally and professionally.

Although there is no one right answer, here are some things to consider as we begin our holiday preparations.

Who’s On Your Guest List?

  • Invite only members of your immediate household.
  • If you must include others, invite only people you trust.
  • Remember that the more people gathered, the higher the risk.
  • Encourage quarantining at least 7 to 10 days before the gathering; 14 days is ideal.
  • Ask your guests to consider testing before the quarantine period.

Who’s Not On Your Guest List?

  • Vulnerable older guests with underlying health conditions.
  • Anyone who refuses to wear a mask.

The Risk Factor

  • Lowest risk is a virtual Thanksgiving.
  • Low risk is at home with your immediate household.
  • Moderate risk is outdoors with a few extra guests from outside your immediate household.
  • High risk is inside your home with guests from outside your immediate household.
  • The highest risk is potluck, in which everyone brings a dish.
  • Safer is a meal cooked and served by one person.
  • You should set a table larger large enough to accommodate physical distance when masks are removed for eating.
  • Multiple tables are better. Have one per household.


  • Air travel is the riskiest.
  • Public transportation is moderate to high risk.
  • Traveling in your own car is safest.

If you or a loved one must travel:

  • · Wear a properly fitted mask.
  • · Sanitize surfaces and wash your hands frequently.

Extra Precautions

  • Consider screening your guests at the door for symptoms.
  • If anyone feels ill, even if it seems related to seasonal allergies, asthma, etc., please ask that person to stay home.

There’s no doubt that this will be a holiday season like no other. But nothing for the past eight months has been normal. School has been disrupted, work has been turned upside down, sports have been upended, and even though they’re playing, the Patriots are having a horrible season.

Here’s how I find solace: The sacrifices we make now will help contain the spread of this vicious virus. Vaccines are in the works, and every day, we learn more about how to treat COVID-19 and save lives. Life will go on, and it will once again be as hectic and frenetic as the pre-pandemic days.

So why not take this opportunity to keep our circle tight and find gratitude for the comfort and quiet of home, surrounded by those to whom we are closest?

Keith Grant is senior director of infection prevention at Hartford HealthCare. This story first appeared in The Hartford Courant.