CDC released guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving safely this year

While Thanksgiving celebrations can still take place this year, health officials are recommending you adjust your plans amid the coronavirus pandemic, since turkey day traditions like flying across the country to visit family, attending parades and lining up to get into stores for Black Friday sales all pose significant risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines to help you plan your Thanksgiving festivities, which will likely look a little different this year.

While the CDC doesn’t put an exact number on how many people should attend a Thanksgiving gathering, officials do discourage traveling for the holidays and say the safest way to celebrate is by having a small dinner with only those who live in your household. For neighbors or family members you don’t live with, it’s best to prepare and deliver dishes to them on the holiday.


Health officials also recommend hosting shorter gatherings this year, and, weather permitting, celebrating outdoors, or indoors with open windows and doors. As we plan our feasts, the CDC urges people to take into consideration the COVID-19 case levels in their communities — and the case levels in the locations where attendees may be traveling from.

Gatherings with friends and family who are not adhering to protocols like social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing are more risky than those where attendees are practicing preventative behaviors.

Here’s what the CDC considers to be lower-, moderate- and high-risk activities this Thanksgiving:

Lower-Risk Activities

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or on Cyber Monday. Some retailers, like Target and Walmart, have already decided to close on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Watching sports events, parades and movies from home.


Moderate-Risk Activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community. Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where social distancing and mask-wearing is enforced, and where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples.
  • Attending a small outdoor sports event with safety precautions in place.


Higher-Risk Activities

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving.
  • Participating in or being a spectator at a crowded race.
  • Attending crowded parades.
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors.
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?