Cancel COVID-19, Not Thanksgiving: Safe Celebration Ideas
Public health officials are urging families to take special precautions while they celebrate Thanksgiving this year. In this video, Brandon Allport-Altillo, M.D., outlines a handful of ways you can modify your holiday traditions to keep your family, friends and community healthy and safe.
Keep It Small
“Limit your celebrations to only those who reside in your household,” says Allport-Altillo, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health, Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Pediatrics. “This can include roommates or family members. Keep in mind that if a college student has been living away from home for the past few months, they’re considered members of a different household.”
It’s safer to celebrate the holiday in your own community, but “if travel is required, do so by car rather than by bus or plane,” he says. If traveling with others outside your household, Allport-Altillo says it’s best to wear a mask and keep the windows rolled down.
Allport-Altillo also suggests connecting with friends and family remotely, using a virtual platform like Zoom. If you have loved ones who live outside of your home, you can also prepare food for them and make a no-contact delivery to their doorstep.
Take Precautions Before Gathering
If you do decide to have an in-person gathering with people outside your household, there are still ways to minimize risk, Allport-Altillo says. Gather outdoors only, and maintain a 6-foot distance between guests. He also recommends that hosts require their guests to wear masks when they’re not eating and to wash their hands frequently.
“Set some ground rules in advance,” he says. “Everyone has their own risk tolerance, so communicate your activities to family and friends so they can assess whether the risk for them is too great. Remember, when welcoming guests outside your household, you’re also welcoming all of their exposures.”
Anyone who is sick or has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days should not attend, Allport-Altillo says. He also suggests that people who are at risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, like older adults and people with chronic illnesses, should also stay away from any gathering outside their household.
COVID-19-Friendly Ideas for a Safely Spooky Halloween
Bhavnani says it’s all about avoiding the three C’s: close contact, closed spaces and crowds.
“Perhaps the safest way to celebrate Halloween is at home with your own family,” she says. “There are so many ways to celebrate Halloween at home, and this can depend on the interests of your own family.”
Bhavnani recommends at-home activities like:
- Baking Halloween treats
- Playing Halloween-themed games or scavenger hunts
- Making Halloween arts and crafts
- Going trick-or-treating from bedroom to bedroom in your own house
But if you’re craving the outdoors, it’s safe to get dressed up and walk around your neighborhood, she says. Just make sure to incorporate cloth masks into your kids’ costumes and keep a safe distance — at least 6 feet — away from others.
What about the candy? Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against higher-risk activities such as traditional trick-or-treating. But there are safer ways than going door to door to collect goodies.
“While you’re outside, you’ll probably see a variety of different distribution methods for candy,” Bhavnani says. “You might see candy placed evenly on a lawn for someone to go and grab. You might even see candy chutes being designed to distribute candy right from doorstep to the sidewalk.”
“Whatever approach that you decide to take, both to distribute and to receive candy, just make sure to avoid crowds and close contact,” she continues. “And remember, it’s perfectly OK to not give out candy this year.”
Coronavirus Protection for Older Adults
Jewel Mullen, M.D., MPH, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, explains how older adults can protect themselves from the coronavirus.
The risk of serious complications and death from the coronavirus infection is higher for people 65 and older than it is for younger people, Mullen says, so it’s important for older people and the people around them — friends, family, caretakers and others — to know how to protect themselves.
First, Mullen advises following basic infection-prevention recommendations:
- Wash your hands well with soap and water and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from other people, whether you’re inside or outside.
- Wear a mask or cloth face covering such as a bandana, cotton scarf or old T-shirt folded into three layers. It should cover your nose, mouth and underneath your chin.
If you need to still go into work, ask your employer what they’re doing to keep you safe, including masking and social-distancing measures. Sometimes even installing safety measures such as plexiglass shields can help cut down on the spread of germs, Mullen says.
A key aspect of staying well is social interaction. If someone who doesn’t live with you wants to come visit, Mullen provides some advice:
- Ask the visitor not to come if they’re sick or have any symptoms, like a fever.
- Remind the visitor to wear their mask and stay 6 feet away from you.
- Visit outside, rather than indoors, if you can.
- Rather than a hug or a kiss, bump elbows or do an air high-five.
Otherwise, connect with friends and family by virtual means: video chat, phone calls, text messages.
Find ways to stay mentally and physically active, Mullen advises. Activities that keep you mentally and physically engaged can help you find joy and keep your mood up.
- Some examples Mullen provides are:
- Having conversations with friends and family;
- Playing games or working on puzzles;
- Watching television;
- Listening to music;
- Working in a garden;
- Walking around inside and counting your steps.
Maintain Medical Care
If you have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, continue to take your medication, and let your doctor or pharmacist know if you have difficulty getting your medication.
Remember that it’s still possible to get illnesses other than COVID-19. If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, new numbness or tingling, severe head pain or any other symptom that makes you worry, Mullen urges you to call your doctor.
“It’s important to find these new ways of being normal even though these are not normal times,” Mullen says. “I believe one way we’re going to get through this is by sticking together, protecting ourselves, protecting one another — and that’s what we need to do.”
How Older Adults Can Guard Against COVID-19
To protect yourself: Stay home. Wash your hands often. Avoid close contact (six feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Can I go get groceries?
Your goal is to stay at home as much as possible. If you can, avoid going to the store: Rely on family, friends, neighbors or a commercial service to deliver groceries.
Is it OK to exercise?
It’s safe to exercise. In fact, you should keep exercising — but do it at home. Look online for tai chi or yoga videos. Use that big soup can as a light weight.
You can go outside for a walk, but if you do, make sure to stay six feet from others. Wash your hands when you get home.
Do I have to completely isolate myself?
Social distance is good, but social isolation is bad. Call somebody if you’re alone. Connecting via phone or video chat is different from connecting in person, but it still valuable.
If you need a help and are having a hard time finding it, reach out via the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging.
Dealing With Infant Formula Shortages
Despite reports of retail shortages of infant formula and other staples, there is no reason to believe these will be widespread or long term.
Here’s advice from Steven Abrams, M.D., on what to do — and what to avoid — if your regular brand is temporarily unavailable.
- It’s OK to switch to a similar brand after checking with your pediatrician.
- Under no circumstances should parents dilute infant formula. Mix as directed on the label.
- Never give whole cow’s milk or homemade formulas to infants.