What To Consider in Planning for a Second Thanksgiving Under COVID-19
November 10, 2021
The second Thanksgiving of the coronavirus era is around the corner, but this year is much different than last. Vaccines have made it much safer to gather with family and friends.
“A room full of vaccinated individuals is not high risk any more. It would be low risk,” says UH pediatric infectious disease specialist Amy Edwards, MD. “I think it’s a very different discussion than we had last year about the holidays.”
Yet many people still must navigate risks. Should hosts require guests be vaccinated or be tested before coming over? What if you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner and don’t know the vaccination status of other guests?
These can be tricky issues.
Dr. Edwards says don’t be shy about asking questions or drawing boundaries. “I realize it’s a fraught topic, but I think it’s up to us as individuals to make it not a fraught topic,” she says.
It should not be awkward to ask people coming to your house whether they’re vaccinated, or to ask a host about the vaccination status of others invited to a gathering you’ve been invited to.
“Especially if someone in your life or someone in hour household is at high risk, I don’t think it’s rude. It’s about protecting your health and the health of your family,” she says.
“I would have no problem asking people invited to my house, are you vaccinated? And if you’re not vaccinated, would you be so kind to get tested?”
There is no one-size-fits-all guideline for deciding whether to mix with people who may not be vaccinated or fully vaccinated, she says. Each family and person should assess their risk tolerance.
If you and your family are fully vaccinated, in good health and at low risk for severe COVID-19, you might be comfortable being around people who may not be vaccinated. But if you have unvaccinated children or an immune-compromised family member, you might think twice about it.
Dr. Edwards says she would not want to expose her young, unvaccinated children to unvaccinated adults at a holiday gathering. While the risk of severe COVID-19 is low in children, she would not want to take a chance.
“My first priority is my children, not peoples’ feelings,” she says. “It’s about protecting your family’s health. If we look at it from that perspective instead of a political perspective, I think it’s easier to have a conversation about it.”
If you are concerned about exposure at Thanksgiving dinner, Dr. Edwards also suggests steps to mitigate risks: Cracking windows for air circulation, gathering in a garage with the door partially open, or using a HEPA air purifier indoors.
“We know that making sure fresh air is circulating is one way to mitigate risk," she says. "We also know length of exposure plays an important factor, so maybe come for part of the event, but not the whole thing.”
Vaccinating children against COVID-19 helps provide immunity for youngsters, while helping to stem the spread of the virus and curb mutations that lead to new, more severe virus variants. Find out about the authorized vaccines, how they work, possible side effects and the benefits of having your children vaccinated.