With the number of coronavirus cases rising in nearly every state, officials have a blunt message about Thanksgiving: Don’t hold large gatherings this year.
From coast to coast, governors and other officials are imposing restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving and pleading with residents to be cautious of the risk of transmitting Covid-19 in their homes or during their travels.
In New York, a state teetering on the edge of a second wave of the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that all gatherings must be capped at 10 people — even in private homes. The limit was imposed after a spike in Covid-19 cases from small indoor gatherings around Halloween, according to Cuomo, and brings New York in line with health measures already in place in other states, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In neighboring New Jersey, where the coronavirus positivity rate is soaring, Gov. Phil Murphy this week issued restrictions on bars and restaurants, but added that individual residences are behind much of the trend in rising cases.
“As it relates to your private setting, we just have to plead with people to not let your guard down, to keep your gatherings as small as possible and to keep fighting this,” Murphy said Thursday on the “TODAY” show.
“Don’t let your hair down, even when you’re in your own home, even when you’re celebrating holidays with your loved ones,” he added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to spend it with your own household, given that even asymptomatic people can spread Covid-19.
If you are spending the holiday at someone else’s house, the CDC suggests bringing your own plates and utensils, avoiding going in and out of areas where food is being prepared and wearing a mask when not eating. The federal health agency encouraged holding a Thanksgiving meal outdoors, setting expectations ahead of time for how to safely celebrate and designating one person to serve the food.
In Texas, the first state in the nation to top more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the top public health official in the Austin area urged that Thanksgiving plans with extended family be reconsidered.
“The strongest advice is don’t gather with people outside of your household this Thanksgiving,” Dr. Mark Escott said, according to The Austin American-Statesman. “If you choose to do that, despite the very strong advice to not do it, then doing other things to protect yourselves is important.”
And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Department of Public Health last month said singing, chanting or shouting — which increase the release of respiratory droplets and fine aerosols — are discouraged during indoor holiday gatherings.
Because travel increases your chances of getting and spreading Covid-19, staying home this Thanksgiving is “the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC said.
That guidance is being echoed in communities across the country.
“I hate to say it, but I have to urge all New Yorkers: Do not travel out of state for the holidays,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last month. “Realize that by doing that, unfortunately, you could be putting yourself and your family in danger.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker made the same recommendation a week before, acknowledging that it is a “very unpopular thing to say.”
“This might be a good year not to travel,” Baker said. “One of the things that creates spread is a whole bunch of people who are in one place where they may be safe and not affected by this traveling to another place and vice versa.”
Thanksgiving comes at a perilous time in the pandemic, as cooler weather in much of the country is forcing more people to stay inside, resulting in a dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases as fatigue with keeping up with safety measures sets in.
And people often mistakenly assume they will be safe if they just have trusted friends and family over to their homes, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor, said.
“They almost subconsciously let their guard down,” Fauci told The New York Times this month. “They don’t realize they’ve come in from multiple cities, spent time in airports. They come to a house where Grandma and Grandpa are, or someone with an underlying condition, and they innocently and inadvertently bring infection into a home. It’s dangerous. You’ve got to be careful.”