CDC issues robust new Thanksgiving guidance as cases surge in US

By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided its most robust guidelines yet for Thanksgiving, as cases surge throughout the United States and several states have issued restrictions ahead of the holidays.

The CDC’s guidance, which was first updated on Monday, emphasizes that the safest option for the holiday is celebrating only with people in your household. However, if you do celebrate with others, the agency advises you to take extra precautions, like wearing masks and keeping your distance.

“Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the CDC said. “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household.”

Public health officials have observed that family gatherings are partly fueling an increase in cases. In Canada, where its national Thanksgiving is celebrated Oct. 12, health officials have said clusters of new cases have since been tied to family get-togethers.

The CDC’s new guidance stresses that even with friends and family, people need to be cautious during the holidays to prevent from adding to the trend of increasing cases.

For those who do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside their household, the CDC advises that you wear a well-fitting mask, keep 6 feet of distance from people who do not live with you and wash your hands often.

If attending a gathering, the agency recommends that you bring your own plate, cups and utensils; store your mask safely while eating and drinking; avoid going in and out of the kitchen while food is being prepared; and use single-use options for condiments and food containers.

Hosts can plan the meal outdoors with a limited group or open windows if dining indoors, talk with guests about expectations beforehand, sanitize surfaces and even have guests bring their own food and drinks, the CDC said.

Around the thorny issue of travel, the CDC advises that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”

“Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the agency said.

Still, airlines are anticipating peaks around the holiday. United Airlines, for instance, said it is adding more than 1,400 domestic flights to peak travel days during Thanksgiving week.

If you are traveling, the CDC emphasizes checking travel restrictions, getting your flu shot, wearing a mask, distancing and washing your hands often in public places.

The guidance comes as every state in the country is reporting an increasing number of new COVID-19 cases, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run data organization.

In Washington, D.C., and five states — California, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — cases are low but increasing. In the remaining 45 states as well as Guam and Puerto Rico, cases are high and staying high.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discussed Thanksgiving travel on MSNBC this Tuesday, saying that each family is going to have to make a “risk assessment,” especially if you have an elderly person or someone with an underlying condition in your family.

“You really need to make a decision,” the nation’s leading infectious disease expert said. “Do I want to put that person at an increased risk by having people coming in from all parts of the country, usually in a crowded airport, without necessarily knowing if they’re infected, without having time to get tested or time to do quarantine?”

In recent weeks, state leaders have issued their own holiday guidance and ordered new restrictions to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

In California, officials released holiday guidelines suggesting that residents limit themselves to outdoor gatherings with people from no more than three households for no more than two hours.

Rhode Island has urged residents to avoid travel for the holidays. It also recently decreased its social gathering limit from 15 people to 10 as cases rise in the state.

Massachusetts advises short in-person visits and virtual holiday dinners with extended family and friends, “especially if they are at higher risk for illness from COVID-19.” Last week, amid rising cases, the state also issued new limits on gatherings at private residences, reducing them from 25 to 10, and placing a 9:30 p.m. curfew on all gatherings until further notice.

To read more about Thanksgiving safety, see here.

ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs, Sophie Tatum, Arielle Mitropoulos, Soo Rin Kim, Brian Hartman, Ben Bell and Gio Benitez contributed to this report.

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