LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Many American families are starting to talk about what to do for Thanksgiving during a pandemic, and they have questions. Is it safe to travel, safe to gather around the dinner table together? April Fulton has these answers.
APRIL FULTON, BYLINE: If visions of all your relatives crowding around grandma's table for a turkey feast have you drooling, you're not alone. But gathering with large groups of people you don't live with can be risky.
TINA TAN: Right now, in many areas of the country, COVID rates are starting to surge again.
FULTON: That's Dr Tina Tan. She's an infectious disease specialist at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. She's worried that the coming holiday will tempt people to travel and, with the colder weather, gather indoors. That means COVID-19 infections are likely to go up. But Tan says there are things you can do to protect yourself.
TAN: Obviously, outside is going to be safer than inside. I think other things that come into play are how many people are going to be getting together, what the mode of transportation will be.
FULTON: Driving is safer than flying, and that's what Holly Provan plans to do. Provan works at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. She and her family will drive to a cabin in the woods to meet up with close friends.
HOLLY PROVAN: No, Pace. Let's stay outside.
FULTON: She and her daughters have spent a lot of time in the backyard since schools closed in March. Provan is ready for a vacation. She's a nurse and a planner. To keep everyone safe, she's going to stop working for a week before the trip, keep her family socially distant from others and take a COVID test.
PROVAN: We're making some sacrifices for that week before just to make sure that we're all extra careful and that they feel safe.
FULTON: Sharing a rental with another family can be low-risk, Tan says, as long as everyone follows safety protocols - social distancing, frequent hand-washing and, when you're not eating, wear a mask.
TAN: I know it's very awkward, but that's going to be the way that you can keep your family and the other family safe.
FULTON: As for taking COVID tests before you go, Tan says they're not a guarantee of safety.
TAN: Basically, what we know about these tests is it only tells you at that particular point in time what your status is.
FULTON: The tests often fail to show when someone is carrying COVID if their exposure has been very recent, like less than five to seven days before. So if you test, you still have to quarantine before you head out for your Thanksgiving feast.
CLAY ALLING: Not this past Thanksgiving - the one before that, I did 55 turkeys.
FULTON: Clay Alling is a chef and general manager for a group of British pubs in Texas. He usually delivers Thanksgiving meals to customers near his home outside of Houston.
ALLING: Three hundred pounds of mashed potatoes, hundred pounds of green beans. I had 12 cherry pies, 15 pecan pies, 28 pumpkin. It was crazy.
FULTON: The pandemic hit his business hard. So this year, Alling says...
ALLING: I'm going to take a break.
FULTON: He and his wife, their three children and his elderly father-in-law, whom they care for, are heading to the beach for a Thanksgiving escape.
ALLING: Don't know what we're going to do but just get out of town and try and get some sort of relaxation into everybody's lives.
FULTON: Staying with your immediate family is pretty safe, Tan says. But if you're with an elderly person, you'll want to take extra precautions. It is flu season.
TAN: They need to be vaccinated against influenza. You don't want to bring something else into the mix.
FULTON: The Allings plan to drive. But what about flying? Thanksgiving is usually one of the busiest times of the year for air travel. Tan says planes are pretty safe. They have better air filters than many homes, and airlines are now enforcing mask-wearing. It's actually more risky to be at the airport, especially if it's crowded. If it all seems like too much work, remember, staying home is your safest bet, and it can have its perks. Maybe this year you won't have to fight for the last slice of pumpkin pie.
For NPR News, I'm April Fulton.
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