This Thanksgiving, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is recommending that holiday hosts and guests prioritize efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and take steps to protect the health and safety of friends and family.
“If you are planning to get together on Thanksgiving, it is a good idea to reduce the risks that invite COVID-19 into your home,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “Even a small gathering of family or close friends can still contribute to the spread of the virus.”
Emergency physicians recommend everyone heed the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)’s holiday safety recommendations this year.
“Remember, anyone can get or spread COVID-19. Close friends and family with whom you don’t live with can still contract and spread the virus to you the same way a stranger could,” ACEP warned. Safety measures suggested include:
• Trim the guest list. Rather than a specified “safe” number of guests, public health experts suggest that hosts determine the size of a gathering by how many guests from different households can remain at least six feet apart. Note that a “household” is made of people who live in the same house every day. Family members who are close but don’t live at home, such as college students visiting for the holiday, are considered a separate household in public health terms.
• Cover your face and maintain your distance. It may be difficult but try to avoid hugs and handshakes. People should also cover their face when they are not eating or drinking.
• Stay outside and stay safer. If it is possible, hosting a small event outside instead of inside is preferable.
• Encourage good hygiene. Hosts should make sure that bathrooms have plenty of soap so guests can frequently wash their hands and single-use towels.
While there are precautions people can take this holiday season, ACEP said the safest option for some will be to stay home.
“Do not attend an in-person gathering if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the CDC’s criteria for when it is safe to be around others,” they urged. “Stay home if you show symptoms, if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or if you have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.”
“Unfortunately, the safest option for older individuals or people with weakened immune systems is to skip in-person gatherings this year,” said Rosenberg. “It may be disappointing to adjust traditions or modify plans in the short-term, but these decisions can save lives.”
Remember, emergency physicians work 24/7, even on holidays. They urged the public not to ignore symptoms if they think you are having a medical emergency — if something is wrong call 911 or visit your closest emergency department. Emergency departments across the country are taking extensive precautions to adapt and protect patients. If holiday plans go awry, emergency departments are safe and ready for anything or anyone that comes their way, they said.
Read more about COVID-19 and Thanksgiving safety at www.emergencyphysicians.org.