Recommendations for an Enjoyable and Safe Thanksgiving

November 23, 2020


INDIANAPOLIS – Thanksgiving is usually a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate. Unfortunately, with ongoing concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is going to look different than previous ones. Thanksgiving can be safe and enjoyable if everyone follows the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“There are many ways for us all to celebrate Thanksgiving this year without placing ourselves or others at risk,” said Virginia A. Caine, MD, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “The number of COVID-19 cases is rising sharply, and small household gatherings are a major contributor to the spread.”

Those who plan to host a gathering during Thanksgiving that brings people together from different households, or those who attend a gathering hosted by someone else, should follow these safety measures from CDC:

  • Wear a mask and require guests to wear masks that cover the mouth and nose unless eating or drinking.
  • Limit the number of guests, preferably under 10.
  • Avoid large gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, don’t serve it buffet-style. Have one person serve food and use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.
  • Use disposal towels.
  • When celebrating indoors, open windows.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households.
  • Wash hands and encourage guests to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you to use when soap and water are not available. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • If attending a gathering that someone else is hosting, ask the host what health safety measures will be in place during the gathering.


CDC is advising against traveling this Thanksgiving due to the high levels of COVID-19 cases across the U.S., and says that the safest way to celebrate is at home with the people in your household. Anyone who does travel should follow these safety measures during the trip to protect themselves and others from the virus:

  • Get a flu shot before traveling.
  • If visiting persons who are immunocompromised or 65 years or older with chronic medical conditions for contracting COVID-19, take all recommended precautions, and get tested for COVID-19.
  • After traveling – no hugs, and take a shower before interacting with family members.
  • Family members who are returning from school outside your home should receive a COVID-19 test at least 72 hours days before visiting.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone outside their household.
  • Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching their mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.


It is very important to note that a person with COVID-19, or who has been exposed to the virus, should not attend in-person Thanksgiving gatherings if he or she:

  • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
  • Has symptoms of COVID-19
  • Is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results.
  • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.


“The more of these prevention measures that are followed, the safer a Thanksgiving gathering will be,” added Dr. Caine.



Curt Brantingham, M.A.
Media/Public Information Coordinator
Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County
Marion County Public Health Department
Indianapolis, IN

317-221-2316 (o)  317-525-7450 (m)