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Thanksgiving in the time of COVID-19: Tips on staying safe

Ahead of the holiday season, the CDC is urging families not to travel for Thanksgiving or have multiple households meet for meals. Andrea Salazar Lopez with NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs explores the inherent dangers during this most challenging Thanksgiving. And if you do decide to gather, she shares some strategies that could lower your risks.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    With Thanksgiving just days away, we turned to our partners from PBS Student Reporting Labs and Andrea Salazar Lopez to hear how they are safely distancing this holiday season.

  • Sierra Winchester:

    One, two three…

  • Friendsgiving Group:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Angie Zarov:

    I was eating soup.

  • Brandon Au Yeung:

    That sounds so good.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    This year my friends and I did our annual Friendsgiving meal over Zoom.

  • Sierra Winchester:

    So my grandpa lives in a nursing home so we can't have Thanksgiving with him this year.

  • Sierra Winchester:

    And I haven't been able to see people who are really important to me in months.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    It's really hard having such a large family during this time. I just want all of us to be under one roof, but we can't because I'm scared for their health.

    As the world experiences another wave of COVID cases, millions of families are considering skipping holiday get-togethers.

    Scientists think the virus has spread largely indoors.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    So how does the virus spread?

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through droplets, which are those little beads of moisture — when you're coughing, sneezing, talking, singing.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    Viral droplets are one thing. Aerosols also spread the virus.

  • Dr. Sudarshan Anand:

    Aerosols are tiny particles that we cannot quite see with our naked eye. The larger droplets, they fall to the ground maybe you know, within about one or two feet, but the aerosols can be suspended and they can travel beyond six feet.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    As aerosols, virus particles remain in the air for up to three hours. When you're outside, there's more air circulating so the chance of encountering the virus is much lower. Indoors, the same air generally recirculates, so there's more risk that a virus will infect a new person.

    A review of more than 20,000 cases of COVID found that fewer than 500 were contracted through fully outdoor events. The vast majority were blamed on indoor transmission.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    So how can we gather more safely for this thanksgiving?

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    We can never eliminate the risk, except to not have the gathering.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    For family and friends who are elderly or vulnerable, the best option might be to include them on zoom.

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    We're not going to have Thanksgiving with, you know, 12 of us gathered around the table this year.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    If you can, eat outside.

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    I'm really grateful for my big covered porch. I will turn the outdoors into a dining environment.

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    Even outdoors, space is still important and wearing a mask is still important. Indoors, we would recommend everything we could think of in terms of minimizing that risk of transmission.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    Greet your family members with hand sanitizer.

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    Maybe we can try to center the gatherings not around a meal.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    If you do decide to eat together, consider eating in shifts. Spread out in different parts of the house and crack windows open to increase ventilation.

  • Dr. Christina Lancioni:

    Grandma, auntie, we can't you know, we can't do this dinner tonight. We love you too much.

  • Natalie Dueltgen:

    This year we're still gonna try and see each other. We're gonna be socially distanced and eating outside…so.

  • Sierra Winchester:

    That's gonna be so cold.

  • Sierra Winchester:

    So we came up with the idea of making a Thanksgiving dinner plate and sending it to my grandpa. And then like calling him. He kinda struggles with technology but if that works out then we can eat thanksgiving dinner with him.

  • Nova Leonard:

    I'm thankful that we're all here and we get to hang out over Zoom and stuff. It's nice to see you guys.

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