STOW — The Stow Board of Health wishes to share health and safety guidance for residents as they begin planning their Thanksgiving celebrations this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traveling increases one’s potential to be exposed to COVID-19 and of potentially spreading it to others. Staying home and observing the holidays with those in your household or hosting a virtual celebration are the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
It is important to note that small gatherings are also contributing to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the CDC.
Those who still choose to travel or host a small gathering are urged to consider lower risk alternatives and review the precautions they can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the way we live our daily lives over the last nine months, and unfortunately Thanksgiving will also look different as we grapple with the continuing pandemic,” Board of Health Chair Mary McDowell said. “We want residents to be able to safely and responsibly celebrate Thanksgiving by staying mindful of the danger of COVID-19 and taking reasonable precaution to protect themselves and their loved ones from this disease.”
Families welcoming students home from college for the holidays, or any other visitors from out of state, should be mindful of the ongoing travel restrictions in effect throughout the commonwealth. All travelers arriving from states other than Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Hawaii must complete a travel form and quarantine for 14 days or obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken within 72 hours of arrival in Massachusetts. This includes Massachusetts residents returning from states other than those named. For the most up to date information on the state’s travel restrictions, click here.
Residents are reminded that, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, any time you are around people from outside of your household, you should:
- Wear a face covering, except when eating or drinking.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Practice social distancing and maintain six feet of distance from others.
- Be cognizant of those around you who may be at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, including older adults and those with certain medical conditions.
- If hosting or attending an indoor gathering, open windows and doors to improve ventilation.
The CDC recommends several lower risk activities to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, including:
- Hosting a Thanksgiving meal with only those who live in your household
- Preparing family and traditional recipes and providing contactless delivery to family and neighbors.
- Hosting a virtual dinner.
- Instead of participating in in-person Black Friday shopping, shop online.
- Watch sports events, parades and movies at home.
Moderate risk activities for this holiday season outlined by the CDC include:
- Hosting a small outdoor dinner with family, friends and loved ones who live locally.
- Remember: outdoor residential gatherings in Massachusetts are limited to 25 people maximum. All social gatherings must end by 9:30 p.m.
- To review the CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings, click here.
- Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 expectations of any business before visiting, and be sure the people around you are using hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
- Go to a small sport event outside, as long as COVID-19 guidance including social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing/sanitizing is being followed.
The CDC warns against the following high risk activities this Thanksgiving:
- Participating in Black Friday shopping in-person or shopping in busy stores before or after Thanksgiving.
- Attending a crowded race, parade or sports event.
- Going to indoor gatherings with people outside of your household. Remember: In Massachusetts, all indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs, which may impair judgement and impact your ability to practice COVID-19 precautions.
Those planning to host or attend gatherings are encouraged to weigh the level of risk of exposure to COVID-19 they will face. Factors to consider include:
- Is there a high level of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the area this gathering is being held, or where you currently live? Do you know of anyone attending the gathering that lives in a high risk area?
- Travel can increase your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. To review travel recommendations from the CDC amid COVID-19, click here.
- Will the gathering be indoors or outdoors? Indoor gatherings, with a lack of ventilation, pose a greater risk.
- How long will this gathering be? It only takes 15 minutes of close contact, being within six feet, of another person infected with COVID-19 to potentially be exposed and be required to quarantine for 14 days. This applies even if it’s non-consecutive contact from the same event.
- Are the people attending this gathering practicing COVID-19 precautions in their daily lives? If the people you’ll be around aren’t wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, washing their hands regularly, etc., you’ll be at a greater risk for exposure.
- Are the people attending this gathering going to follow COVID-19 precautions while they’re there? If people at the gathering won’t be following public health guidance to keep themselves and others healthy, everyone at the gathering will be at a greater risk.
- If you or someone in your household currently has COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results and/or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 over the last 14 days, do not go to an in-person gathering.
- Those at a higher risk to become seriously ill from COVID-19, including older adults and those with certain medical conditions, should avoid in-person gatherings with those outside of your household. Racial and ethnic minority groups as well as those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, with disabilities, with developmental and behavioral disorders, and who have substance use disorder may also need to take additional precautions against COVID-19. To review information from the CDC regarding who is at a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, click here.
For additional guidance for navigating the holidays amid COVID-19 from the CDC, including additional information on hosting or attending a gathering, food and drinks at small gatherings, travel and overnight stays, and what to do if you’re exposed to COVID-19 at a holiday party, click here. For more tips for celebrating Thanksgiving this year from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, click here.