How to reduce your risk at Thanksgiving

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Public health experts widely agree that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to do it at home, with only the members of your household.

But for people who still plan to get together with family or the members of their social bubble, there are still steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission.

"When I’ve met with people, which is rare, I do it outside, I’m about 10 feet apart," said aerosol expert Dr. Kim Prather, director of the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment and a distinguished professor at the UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

She said the best way to see people who are not in your household is to do it outside, minimizing any shared surfaces like utensils and maximizing distance and mask wearing.

"The challenge is you’re eating, so it won’t be masked. But if you’re sitting there talking for a long time I would be extra cautious and put the masks on," she said.

Because Thanksgiving gatherings tend to last for a significant amount of time and include eating and drinking, ventilation and air filtration is especially important.

"Being outside is so much safer because it really dilutes things down, I mean that’s the best ventilation you’ve got," she said. If that is not possible, sitting near a large open window or door is also helpful. "It’s not quite as good as being outdoors - once you start putting up walls you don’t have as good of ventilation - but it’s still good. And again distance, and reduced numbers."

Putting a mask on whenever you can, such as before and after dinner, can also help reduce your risk.

Dr. Prather said when you are interacting with people outside of your household there is no surefire way to avoid transmission, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risk, so it is important to layer as many of those as you can.

For any other questions people may have about how to prevent aerosol transmission and reduce your risk of infection, Dr. Prather and her colleagues have put together a thorough FAQ about effective strategies.