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Billings nurse recommends changing, not canceling, Thanksgiving to fight COVID

Posted at 9:14 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 23:14:34-05

Thanksgiving is just a week away, but with the Covid-19 pandemic raging, health officials say it may be best to put some Thanksgiving traditions aside, or at least do them differently.

While the calendar may say Thanksgiving, for many healthcare workers the upcoming holiday season feels more like Halloween.

“Going into the holiday season with the level of disease that we have is actually frightening to some of us,” says registered Nancy Iverson, director of patient safety and infection control of Billings Clinic.

In her role, Iverson has seen first-hand the devastation caused by the coronavirus.

“it is real. It causes a viral pneumonia that is very severe,” she said.

Because of that, she says if you still are planning to gather together to celebrate, it should not be in the traditional way. She says it’s best to stay within your bubble.

“That small group of people that live with you if you are all taking the same measures that’s safer. When your college student comes home that is outside of your household, it may be your family, but they are bringing their exposure and epidemiology into that bubble and you are putting people at risk,” Iverson says.

Iverson says you should also rethink sitting down at the table together for the big feast. Consider, instead, moving the meal outside.

“I know that sounds crazy in Montana. But if you are going to gather people—pick it in the best part of the day when it is a little warmer. What is going to put you at risk is enclosed space without masks, the duration of your interaction. If you do need to host, put people at separate tables. Households need to be at separate tables. You need to have distance. And if you aren’t eating, the mask goes back on,” she says.

Iverson says family gatherings are one of the main factors in the spread of the coronavirus, and that people often have no idea that they are infectious.

“That is what is different about this virus. For 48 hours before you get symptoms, you are actually shedding the virus through your breath and prolonged exposure is what is making people sick. That’s what’s driving a lot of this,” she says.

She suggests for this year, at least, consider starting some new Thanksgiving traditions.

“Maybe your prepare a meal and drop it off at a couple homes and they enjoy in their bubble. Maybe you do something virtual. Maybe you do some cooking together so you are socializing but you are not physically together. If you are physically together you need to proceed with caution because it is not a safe event to do right now,” she says.

If you do still decide to host a Thanksgiving gathering, the Centers for Disease Control says these steps should also be followed to keep people safe.

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.