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Considerations for Hosting or Attending a Holiday Gathering

thanksgiving table with turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, and stuffing

NOTE: This COVID-19 post is over a year old and may contain outdated information. It has been left up for archival purposes only. For the most up-to-date information on masking, vaccines, and more, visit the CDC’s website.

This Thanksgiving, it’s important to assess the risks of COVID-19 to keep everyone in your family and friend group safe. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with people from your household, instead of hosting or attending a large gathering.

If you decide to host or attend a Thanksgiving gathering with people who do not live in your household, it’s important to know how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

Attending a Holiday Gathering

Attending a holiday gathering with people who do not live in your household increases your chances of getting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. If you plan on attending a holiday gathering, here are some tips to limit your risk of COVID-19:

  • Prepare before you go:
  • Practice social distancing
      • Maintain 6 feet of distance or more from people who don’t live in your household.
      • Be particularly mindful in areas where it can be harder to keep a distance.
      • Select seating where you can keep 6 feet of space from people who don’t live in your household, especially when eating or drinking.
      • Avoid lines near food or bathrooms.
  • Wear masks
      • Wear a mask when interacting with people who don’t live in your household.
      • If you need to take your mask off to eat or drink, make sure you’re at a safe distance from people who do not live in your household.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
    • Avoid any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and condiments, or drink stations. Use grab-and-go meal options, if available.
    • Use disposable plates, cups, and utensils, if possible.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer immediately before eating food or after touching any common surfaces like hand railings, door handles, and toilets. 

Hosting a Holiday Gathering

If you plan on hosting a holiday gathering, here are some tips for ensuring all of your guests stay safe and healthy.

  • Set expectations of wearing masks, limiting the number of people, and social distancing. 
      • If you are close enough to the people you’re inviting, you should feel comfortable enough to have a conversation about COVID-19 safety.
      • If you don’t have that kind of relationship, it may not be the best time to have them over this year.
  • Remind guests to stay home if they are sick or if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days
      • Consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contact tracing needs.
  • Encourage social distancing
      • Host the gathering outdoors, if possible. If it is not possible, make sure the space is well-ventilated (i.e. by opening a window).
      • Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart – just 6 feet away from other families.
      • Minimize gestures that promote close contact (handshakes, hugs, elbow bumps). Instead, wave and verbally greet them.
  • Wear masks
      • Wear masks when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors.
      • Consider providing masks for guests or asking them to bring their own.
  • Clean hands often
      • Provide hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations throughout your home.
      • Consider also providing cleaning supplies that allow guests to wipe down surfaces before they leave.
      • Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
        • Avoid lines at sinks and hand-washing stations.
      • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
  • Limit the number of people handling or serving food
      • Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks.
      • If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all 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, and condiments, so that multiple people are not handling the items.
      • Limit people around the food. (i.e. coming in and out of the kitchen or grill area)
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
    • Use touchless garbage cans.
    • Use gloves when disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
    • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items.
    • Wash tablecloths, linen napkins, etc. afterward.

View more tips for reducing COVID-19 risk indoors here. Learn more about Thanksgiving risk considerations here

View our Holiday Season Safer Gathering Tips one-sheet here.