The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have posted their guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving during the pandemic. The agency recommends “the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household.” But then the guidelines go on to include suggestions on how to host a holiday dinner if you do decide to include non-family members, such as social distancing, bringing your own utensils and plates, and cleaning surfaces frequently.
According to Fast Company, experts believe that the CDC should have issued a sterner warning to cancel Thanksgiving altogether, since even small in-person gatherings can become superspreader events.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of health policy and preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, is “definitely” convinced that Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. can trigger an uptick in coronavirus cases, the way they did in Canada last month after the country celebrated its holiday, according to CNN.
Schaffner said “just looking at the way our general population is behaving” offers a clue as to why the CDC was not stricter in its recommendations.
“The notion is, if you provide recommendations, you don’t want recommendations to be ignored,” he explained, according to Fast Company. “I think they’re not stricter because they thought they would be completely ignored.”
So-called “COVID-19 fatigue” is also contributing to a more apathetic attitude regarding social gatherings. Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and safety officer at Ohio State University, says that people are at “their wit’s end” dealing with pandemic restrictions.
“It’s starting to cause complacency and apathy, and just flat-out rejection of adherence to the guidelines.” He said that the CDC should have been stricter in their holiday guidelines and “walked back the guidelines if needed.”
Experts note that with cases of COVID-19 rising, generic recommendations such as wearing masks and staying 6 feet away from others do not lend themselves to even small in-person gatherings at someone’s home or apartment. And Schaffner adds that holiday dining, especially after a few drinks, makes people complacent. “After all, this is family! What could happen here?” he said, according to Fast Company.
Even with taking all noted precautions, including improving indoor ventilation by placing a fan near the window, and ensuring everyone gets tested before the event, dinner parties and small family gatherings with talking and laughter are just the events that are causing COVID-19 case numbers to skyrocket.
Schaffner says he will be celebrating Thanksgiving via Zoom and suggests others follow suit, either with Facetime or an “old-timey telephone” for older, tech-averse folks.
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