Whether you opt for “Zoomsgiving” or in person, let’s really take care of each other this year.

Thanksgiving is going to look a little different this year, especially as cases of COVID are on the rise (yet again). One thing is for certain in the pandemic era—you shouldn’t throw your usual holiday celebration. But! With a few safety measures, you may be able to have a warm Thanksgiving full of the food and people you love—it just may require some tweaking. Here’s how, according to the experts.

1. Stay virtual if possible

“Your best option is ‘Zoomsgiving,’” says Henry F. Raymond, DrPH, MPH, Associate Director for Public Health, The Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness at Rutgers – School of Public Health. If the idea of doing a virtual gathering for such an important holiday doesn’t get you excited right now, know that there are ways to make it fun and spend time together. For instance, coordinate a menu (and make things on a smaller scale for your household) so you can all enjoy the same foods. If there’s a special food that only you make—like an awesome cherry pie—make it and drop it off with your loved ones. That way, you can still feel like you’re caring for family with a beloved recipe but keeping it safe.

2. Keep it small

In-person celebrations should be kept small. “Invite people currently in your own bubble,” says Raymond. That might include the family next door, your parents who come help you care for your kids, family friends whom you see regularly. This will be different for everyone. As much as you’d like to have your aunt or cousins whom you haven’t seen since March, it’s smart to keep these celebrations separate this year.

family thanksgiving table
Credit: skynesher

3. Don’t fly people in

If your mother-in-law has to fly across the country to come see you, she’s not in your bubble. Remember, flu season and COVID are both happening at the same time. “It’s not a good idea to swap viruses from all over the country,” says Raymond.

4. Make some tough cuts

It’s hard to say this, but unless grandpa is part of your existing social bubble, “grandpa shouldn’t come for Thanksgiving,” says Raymond. Nothing against grandpa, of course, but because of the possibility of asymptomatic spread, getting together could put elderly (or immunocompromised) loved ones at risk. If an elderly relative lives in an assisted living facility, retirement community, or their own house, for instance, you can safely drop off dinner for them at their doorstop without worry of transferring the virus, he says.

5. Pick the bigger space

Hold the holiday at a house where everyone can realistically space out. “Don’t invite so many people into a small space that you have to cram everyone around a table,” says Raymond.

6. Plate the food

Thanksgiving may be the prime holiday for a family-style buffet, but right now, avoid sharing utensils and passing food around the table. “It’s not like people are going to lick the serving utensils, but there are so many easy ways to minimize your potential risk, and this is one of them,” says Raymond.

7. Limit alcohol

Alcohol takes your guard down and may also make you talk and laugh in a more animated way, and the more forceful exhales and saliva particles could possibly increase the risk of virus transmission (if someone is infected but doesn’t know it), adds Raymond. Don’t suppress giggles and guffaws but be sure to limit your wine or dips into the cider rum punch so you can retain some vigilance in this most unique holiday season.