Health experts suggest you avoid this during Thanksgiving gatherings

HOUSTON, TEXAS (KTRK) -- Should Thanksgiving plans be canceled this year? Two Houston experts are weighing in on the options and health risks during the pandemic.

Family gatherings, football games, holiday shopping and parades are just some of the traditional Thanksgiving activities that you may have to watch or do at home this year.

Dr. Wesley Long, the Medical Director of Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital, said as COVID-19 cases increase across the country, the numbers here in Houston have been low for the past several weeks, but it does not mean it will stay that way when it's time for Thanksgiving.

SEE ALSO: How to enjoy the holidays and stay safe during a pandemic

"I think it's important for people to think about their family and who would be at that gathering," Dr. Long said. "Everyone really needs to really rethink Thanksgiving in a way that supports social distancing, supports masking, and supports all these healthy habits."

According to the CDC, families typically travel more for Thanksgiving than other holidays, which increases the chance of catching or spreading the virus. The CDC recommends people stay at home, have family gatherings with those just in their household or virtual gatherings with extended family members.

"Maybe avoiding common-used food utensils, common-used food items, plating everything ahead of time and giving everyone their own plate," Dr. Long said.

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist with UTHealth School of Public Health, is part of a new study that revealed if passengers are masked while traveling on an airplane. There is about a .003% chance of catching COVID-19.

SEE ALSO: CDC releases guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving holiday safely

"There have been some documented cases, although again these have been on longer, usually international flights," Troisi said. "If everybody is masked, as this study showed, these risks are really pretty small."

Troisi also noted that an airline sponsored the study and shared a personal story about canceling a flight the day before due to the airplane filling every seat and being completely booked. Troisi said she didn't feel like it was worth the risk.

She said if you're a high-risk individual or if you are going to visit someone who is high-risk, it's important to carefully consider your plans.

"You have to make that decision for yourself about, 'Is it worth a chance that I might get infected and what are the consequences of that would be?,'" Troisi said.

SEE ALSO: What to look out for when holiday shopping in a pandemic

Harris County Public Health also released its recommendations for holiday activities through the end of the year, stating:

"Thanksgiving kicks off the start of holidays that many families look forward to all year and celebrate together - Hannukkah, Christmas and Kwanza. However, the very things that make holidays so special - travel, big meals and family closeness - are risky during a pandemic. To keep everyone healthy, celebrate this year's holidays in new, safer and more creative ways. Instead of hugs, let's show our love by protecting our families and friends from COVID-19. "

SEE ALSO: Dr. Fauci warns Thanksgiving gatherings pose high risk for COVID-19

HCPH also listed similar guidelines as the CDC.

The CDC has broken down its guidelines into three categories from lower-risk, moderate-risk and higher-risk activities:

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 the next Monday
  • 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 people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.


Higher-Risk Activities

  • Avoid these higher-risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC says
  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating 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


For more information about the guidelines, please visit the CDC online.

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