Baker: Gathering indoors in groups for Thanksgiving is ‘worst possible scenario’

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said Thanksgiving needs to look a lot different this year to keep loved ones safe, calling traveling and traditional holiday celebrations the “worst possible scenario” for coronavirus transmission.

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“The science on this one’s pretty clear — gathering in groups indoors for an extended period of time with family and friends is likely the worst possible scenario for spreading the virus,” Baker said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has released guidance for celebrations to limit the risk of exposure and to reduce the spread of the virus.

One of the state’s safety tips is limiting in-person holiday gatherings to only people you live with or limiting them to a small group of individuals with whom you are regularly in contact — something the governor plans on adhering to.

Baker said his Thanksgiving celebration will be limited to “immediate family, and that’s it.”

He also urged all families to “think long and hard about the well-being of your loved ones” before finalizing holiday plans.

Other safety tips include:

  • Wear a mask when not eating or drinking
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Stay at least six feet apart from others
  • Consider if those around you may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions, and take extra precautions
  • If gathering indoors, improve ventilation by opening windows and doors
  • Keep visits short – gatherings that last longer pose more risk than short gatherings
  • Host a virtual holiday dinner with extended family or  friends, especially if they are at higher risk for illness from COVID-19
  • Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others

People who plan on celebrating the holidays in person with people they don’t live with should limit gatherings to people they have “seen on a regular basis,” Baker advised.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said people should wear masks as they prepare meals, plate food rather than passing dishes around the table, open doors and windows, and get tested for the virus following any type of gathering.

The state also released a list of safety tips for people who decided to take part in high risk celebrations:

  • Wear your mask and watch your distance at all times.
  • Do not share food, drink, or any utensils.
  • Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only.
  • Wear a mask while preparing or serving food to others who don’t live in your household
  • Consider having one person serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils
  • Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments
  • Avoid any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets or buffet-style potlucks, salad bars, and condiment or drink stations
  • For 14 days before and after holiday gatherings, minimize contact with other people, and only leave home for essential services like going to work, buying groceries, and appointments with doctors;  OR,
  • Obtain a negative result from a molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test, on a sample obtained within 72 hours of the celebration. Information about where to obtain a test can be found at https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-testing
  • Seat people with plenty of space from one another while dining
  • Consider small seating table arrangements in multiple rooms with plenty of spacing, instead of a large family table
  • If gathering indoors, improve ventilation by opening windows and doors

People are also being urged to avoid shaking hands, hugging, singing, dancing, and shouting.

Those who have contracted COVID-19 or have been exposed to the disease should avoid all in-person festivities.

For more information on coping with the holidays during the pandemic, click here.

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