The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is with household members only, or virtually with others, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Tuesday.
"The science on this one's pretty clear -- gathering in groups indoors for an extended period of time with family and friends is likely the worst possible scenario for spreading the virus," Baker said.
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The state has issued specific guidelines for Thanksgiving during COVID-19, suggesting that families should only gather with members of their household, or else hold a virtual gathering with other members of their family.
“This is the best way to avoid bringing this terrible virus to your grandparents, parents and loved ones," Baker said. "If you gather with people outside your household, limit guests as much as possible and keep it to your limited social network, who you see on a regular basis.”
Last year, the governor said Thanksgiving at his house was "18 people crowded around a table that probably fit comfortably around 12, followed by naps on the couch and football games no one watched. It was a long day with a whole bunch of people, all under one roof. That is what Thanksgiving is for most of us here in Massachusetts, and has been for as long as we can remember."
Baker said his own Thanksgiving celebration this year will be "immediate family, and that's it," and said all families should "think long and hard about the well-being of your loved ones before you make your plans.
If people do mark the holiday with friends and family outside their household, he said, they should limit guests as much as possible, keeping it "to your limited social network, those that you've seen on a pretty regular basis."
“Thanksgiving requires folks to eat indoors, to drink and socialize over an extended period of time, and maybe watch a football game or two," Baker added. “But every family here in the Commonwealth needs to think long and hard about the well-being of your loved ones before you make your plans. If you have a loved one who’s at high risk for COVID, it’s simply a bad idea.”
Sudders said people should wear masks while together as they prepare meals, plate each person's food rather than serving family-style, open doors and windows, and get tested for COVID-19 if they do gather.
"It loves to be the uninvited gues,t" she said of the virus.
Sudders said the state is also working with testing sites to increase their hours before Thanksgiving.
"There's just no way around it," she said. "The holidays need to look and feel very different this year."
People looking to celebrate safely are beginning to think outside the box.
Bob Costa of BC Tent and Awning in Avon says the calls have started already for tables, chairs and tents, with people trying to figure out alternate plans to indoor seating, in order to have a small, socially-distanced Thanksgiving.
"That's the most common question right now, 'Can you cover my deck, and if it's cold can you heat it?' And we can do both," Costa said.
Like restaurants have been doing, Costa says people are trying to push their dinners outside as much as possible, even setting up in their garages.
"Sometimes, we'll have pipe and drape, like you see in a trade show," he said. "If you want to hide your lawnmower and everything else, we have the ability to do that, to dress it up."
State House News Service contributed to this report.