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A pared-down Thanksgiving this year means the hope of a better one in 2021

A pared-down Thanksgiving this year means the hope of a better one in 2021

Nov. 25, 2020

By Mary Wade Burnside

Usually this time of year, the focus of Monongalia County Health Department’s Thanksgiving column centers around food safety and how to correctly prepare a turkey and all the fixings.

To that end, if you do have plans to serve a bird and the trimmings — to what we hope is a small group that only includes members of your household — cook the turkey and stuffing to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has handy tips for handling the turkey safely while thawing it and before cooking, as well as for storing any leftovers you might have.

Perhaps you will have more leftovers than usual. Because this holiday season, as we all know, is different. You still want your food to be safe, but this year requires extra precautions, as the county, state and country experience yet another surge in COVID-19 cases.

We know everyone wants a sense of normalcy after a heartbreaking year. For Thanksgiving, that usually means gathering together, sometimes traveling to a relative’s home to do so.

The CDC has something to say about that too:

“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer, also recommends that only members of individual households celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

“We completely understand that these aren’t easy decisions to make, because we’re having to make them too,” Dr. Smith said. “But if we don’t modify our Thanksgiving plans, COVID cases will only continue to rise, and then we will see another surge just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas.”

My family is dealing with this too. My mother has spent a good portion of the year on lockdown in the senior living community where she resided. When she moved into her own apartment a couple of months ago, a bright spot was the idea of being able to spend the holidays with her.

But COVID cases keep rising. West Virginia is seeing record numbers of cases. It’s not uncommon for more than 10-plus deaths to be reported statewide on a daily basis. In fact, it’s usually more than 10, and rarely fewer. On Friday, it was 16.

My family finally realized that a phone call or a Zoom chat will constitute our Thanksgiving visit.

For those who do plan to get together with outside members of your family, you know the drill. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Maintain a social distance. Yes, two of those make hugging difficult. That’s the point.

When it comes time to eat, it also would help not to be in close quarters around a table. Because you obviously have to take your masks off. Perhaps have a buffet and stagger times among family members who can spread out as they dig into their meals. It’s supposed to be 55 degrees Thanksgiving afternoon. Some families might think that’s warm enough to eat outside, which would be the safest option.

And remember, COVID testing prior to gathering together can be a good idea, but unless you quarantine and then take extra precautions while traveling, the test is only going to reveal what your status was on the day you were swabbed.

There are no perfect solutions. But there are manageable ones. Yes, it’s a bitter pill to take. However, you can still communicate with your family members and you can still eat a lovely meal.

This will help to ensure that everyone is still around to celebrate the new, and hopefully brighter, year that begins five weeks later.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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