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Thanksgiving and COVID: What to consider before the feast

FILE: What to expect for Thanksgiving 2021.
FILE: What to expect for Thanksgiving 2021.
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Corn you believe it? Thanksgiving is only 10 days away.

And what a difference one year can make.

“I’m very happy to report that this Thanksgiving is definitely not the same as last Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Christina Madison with Roseman University. "The prospect of spending times with loved ones, family and friends aren’t potentially scary like it was last year."

Doctors say vaccinations, treatments and available testing make this year safer for families.

“It will probably be a less restrictive atmosphere than last year,” said Jonathan Baktari, CEO of e7 Health. “But we still have to keep that in mind and not pretend that it’s 2019 all over again. We will still have to take some precautions.”

Vaccination Status and Boosters

And that starts, says Dr. Madison, with the most important precaution:

“The best dinner guest is a vaccinated dinner guest,” she said.

This also helps children under 5 and those who are ineligible for the vaccine.

“The best thing to protect them is a vaccinated adult,” said Dr. Madison.

As for those who are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions, Dr. Jonathon Baktari, CEO of e7 Health, says they should consider a booster before gathering.

“Everyone who qualifies for the booster should get one,” he said. “That’s a really good precaution you can take.”

While vaccinations aren’t a silver bullet, doctors point out they are still holding up well at preventing hospitalization and death.

“All those who are vaccinated for Thanksgiving can rest a little easier knowing that they have a low risk of having a COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Staci McHale with the Clark County Medical Society.


Dr. McHale suggests another layer of protection: Testing.

“Those rapid tests can allow patients to feel very comfortable knowing they aren’t going to bring active COVID to their families,” she said.

These include over-the-counter antigen rapid tests available at your local pharmacy, which can be done mere hours before Thanksgiving dinner.

“Now that we have more availability with at-home testing, that really does give peace of mind,” said Dr. Madison. “I think that’s an excellent layer to add on for protection and prevention.”

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However, to be extra careful, you can also take a PCR test - considered to be more accurate.

“If you are going to be around those high-risk individuals, you may want to get one of those PCR tests, just to be on the safer side,” said Dr. Madison.

Dr. Baktari points out e7 offers PCR tests that can text results in 2 hours or less.


This holiday season, a recent survey from the Vacationer revealed Thanksgiving air travel is expected to be triple what we saw in 2020.

“There’s going to be a high number of people traveling and people really need to be careful with protecting themselves,” said Dr. McHale.

Doctors say driving can prevent long-airline crowds.

“Car travel is still preferred to air travel,” Dr. McHale said.

And if you do fly, doctors say a tight-fitting N95 mask along with handwashing can keep you safer too.

Additional Precautions

For those who are still uneasy, medical professionals say you can take a few more steps to be safe.

For example, consider a smaller gathering or holding the meal outdoors.

“Outdoor activities are always safer and better,” said Dr. Baktari.

There are also the “tried-and-true” methods: hand washing, social distancing and masking, for an additional layer of safety.

Spending Time with Family

Doctors point out each family is unique with different comfort levels and unique circumstances.

Each group, they say, will have to weigh several factors and come up with what works best for them.

But ultimately, psychologist Dr. Renee Solomon says this year -- we should appreciate what we didn't have last.

“I think it’s so important now that we can be with family and connect, to actually do that,” she said. “Being grateful of where we are is so important and really helps us move forward in our lives.”

And so is, points out Dr. Madison, the ability to safely gather and make memories with those we love.

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“There’s just so much to be thankful for, and I’m just really glad that we have the opportunity to say that we’ve come so far,” she said.

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