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As COVID-19 surges, CDC urges people to stay home for Thanksgiving

The federal agency recommends people avoid traveling and only celebrating the holiday at home with people they live with.

As COVID-19 cases across the country skyrocket, the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving

"As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with," the CDC's guidance, which was updated Thursday, says. 

More than 1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the U.S. over the past seven days, the CDC says. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or other illnesses, like the flu. 

“We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel," the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager Dr. Henry Walke said in a press briefing this week, according to USA Today.

Walke says the CDC is worried about people traveling via transportation hubs where people are waiting in line together to board buses and planes, according to CNBC, and the CDC is recommending people don't travel at all. 

“For Americans who decide to travel, CDC recommends doing so as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living," Walke said.

In recent weeks, as COVID-19 has pushed hospitals to their brink, health officials have gotten stricter in their recommendations for celebrating the upcoming holiday safely. 

In early November, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and CDC asked people to avoid large gatherings and then health experts shifted their recommendations to say people should bubble if they planned to visit family or friends. 

Now they're asking people to only celebrate with those in their immediate household. In Minnesota, doing anything but that is going against a new executive order that prohibits all social gatherings with people outside of your immediate household, even if the event is outdoors or allows for social distancing. 

“One of our concerns is that as people over the holiday season get together, they may actually be bringing infections with them to that small gathering and not even know it,” Walke said, according to CNBC, adding that 30% to 40% of spread is driven by people without symptoms.

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Instead, the CDC suggests having a virtual celebration with those you don't live with or deliver meals to family and neighbors without making contact.  

If people do choose to go against the CDC's recommendations and host an in-person gathering with people outside of their household (remember, they're not allowed in Minnesota), the CDC encourages people to take the following steps to make things safer:

  • Have a small meal outdoors with those who live in your community
  • If celebrating inside, increase ventilation in the home by opening windows and doors and/or turning on the home's central air/heat so the fan is continuously circulating the air
  • Limit the number of guests
  • Set expectations with guests for celebrating safely prior to the event
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas, and better yet, have people bring their own food and drinks
  • Make sure people sit six feet apart and wear a mask whenever they're not eating or drinking
  • Avoid singing and shouting, especially indoors

Additional safety tips and recommendations for celebrating the holidays and holiday travel can be found here and here

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