Thanksgiving 2020: Serving up safety tips during COVID-19

This year, Thanksgiving looks much different for all of us. Thanksgiving safety concerns go well beyond kitchen accidents and the usual fear of getting burned after pulling the pumpkin pie from the oven. 

Holidays in the era of COVID-19 present many challenges 

While everyone wants to enjoy time with loved ones, as of Oct. 23, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has limited personal gatherings in the state to a maximum of 10 people from no more than two households, following an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations. 

More recently, the mask mandate was extended, and Gov. Polis is informally asking Coloradans to cancel social events. It’s important to keep an eye on the orders, as they can change quickly. 

Help your Colorado workers safely navigate Thanksgiving 

So, what does that mean for your workers celebrating the holidays? They may need to revisit their plans. 

“People should really abide by the order,” says Pinnacol Senior Medical Director Tom Denberg, M.D. 

“It was put in place for a reason. The number of cases in Colorado is exploding, and this will continue to be an issue all the way through the holiday season.” 

If someone still hopes to host a holiday gathering that meets the parameters, Denberg advises taking realistic precautions. 

While having all participants quarantine for 14 days before a gathering would be ideal, “it’s rarely practical. And can you trust that people will really do this? It only takes one person to screw everything up,” he says. 

Whether your employees host or travel for Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings throughout the season, you can pass on these tips: 


Hold a virtual gathering

Denberg says no contact is the safest route to control the spread of the virus. 

Celebrate the holiday by hopping on Zoom for a morning coffee with friends, then have your extended family time their turkey cooking so you can all eat together via video chat. 

Try to stay outdoors

Staying outdoors is safer than being inside, but Denberg cautions cold weather could make eating outside uncomfortable, especially for older guests. Have one person dish out everyone’s food and spread out as much as possible while eating. 

If you must be indoors, open a window for ventilation and space people six feet apart around the tables. 

Consider the guest list carefully

Denberg says thinking about your guests’ behavior is important. Invite people you trust to be safe. Ask yourself:

  • Are these people who take the risk of COVID seriously?
  • Are they willing to wear a mask and socially distance?
  • Are they older folks or those with chronic conditions fall into high-risk groups for COVID? If so, they really shouldn’t host or attend any gatherings this year.


Assess community spread

Before you visit somewhere in-state, Denberg advises, go to the CDPHE website and find the latest COVID case metrics for your destination. 

Colorado has a color-coded system that assesses risk, and almost every county is currently high risk. 

If you plan to travel out of Colorado, look up the state’s health department site to find the area’s most recent numbers. Stay home if rates are high. 

Check local health orders before traveling out of state

You can find these on the state’s department of health website, too. Denberg notes some states aren’t allowing gatherings at all.

Plan out your trip

Public transportation presents greater risks than driving. But if you drive a great distance, you may have to stop at rest areas and motels. 

“Ask yourself, is it really worth it to take a long trip to come to a small gathering, one that, ideally, is not going to last very long?” Denberg says. 

If you decide to fly, you may encounter crowded airports where it is difficult to socially distance, and other travelers may ignore protective measures. 

Follow social distancing guidelines

Whether you host or visit, wear a mask when you aren’t eating, and stay at least six feet away from people who aren’t in your household. 

But what about testing? 

Testing doesn’t guarantee safety.

Can you avoid all these precautions by simply getting a negative pre-holiday COVID test? 

While that would be nice, Denberg warns it’s not ideal. 

“There is a high rate of false negatives within the first few days after acquiring an infection, so testing is absolutely not foolproof,” he says. “A test is probably better than no test, but you need to be super careful what you do after you get tested and before you attend an event. If you don't strictly observe precautions, the test could end up being worthless.” 

“Testing and then quarantining for at least a week is probably better than just testing by itself, especially if you can’t quarantine for two weeks.” cautions Denberg.

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