By Robin Clutters

(CBS4)– Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and while getting together for a traditional dinner is a great way to celebrate, it can also increase the chances of getting or spreading coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recently released a set of guidelines for celebrating the holidays safely.

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Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz helped come up with those guidelines. She recommends spending the holiday with people in your household only. If that is not possible, Dr. Sauber-Schatz says you should clearly set expectations with your guests before they arrive.

“If you are planning to have people, wear a mask during your holiday gathering with them unless they are actively eating or drinking,” says Dr. Sauber-Schatz. “Make that clear in advance so people arrive with a mask and hand sanitizer.”

Some people will be traveling for the holidays. The CDC says if you must travel, be flexible and open to changing your plans if you suddenly feel sick.

“In the last week we’ve seen over a million new cases of COVID-19 and an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. With Thanksgiving being seven days away, we really need people to be flexible. If you’re showing any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home.”

Another thing to consider before traveling is the level of coronavirus transmission not only in your community, but also the community you’re planning to go through.

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“If you go to an area that has a high case count, you don’t want to have a higher risk of bringing COVID-19 to your family and friends that might be in a community that is actually having a lower spread. You have to consider both where you’re going, and where you’re coming from.”

If you do decide to travel, there are small things you can do that will make a big difference.

“Try to watch your distance as you’re moving through the airport, pick places to stand that aren’t around a bunch of people that you don’t live with,” says Dr. Sauber-Schatz. “Carry hand sanitizer and extra supplies so you can use that as you travel.”

The CDC says while getting a coronavirus test before traveling may be helpful, people should not assume it means they will stay negative during their entire trip.

“A test can be negative one day and the very next day it can be positive. And we also know that people who are asymptomatic with COVID-19, meaning they don’t have any signs and symptoms, can spread the virus to other people,” says Dr. Sauber-Schatz. “That’s why mask wearing is so important.”

Last week, the CDC released new guidelines saying masks not only protect others—they also protect you from coronavirus. But the only way masks can protect everyone is if they are worn correctly. That means wearing them over both your nose and mouth.

“Respiratory droplets can come out of your mouth and your nose. So, by only covering your mouth, you’re not actually containing all the possible virus,” says Dr. Sauber-Schatz. “When you wear it over your mouth and nose, you’re helping filter the air that you’re breathing in, which will help to keep you safe.”

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Dr. Sauber-Schatz says the CDC will continue to monitor the situation before releasing new guidelines about how to celebrate holidays in December and the New Year. However, she says the safest way to celebrate the holidays will be to continue to spend them with people in your immediate household only.

“The more people you’re around, the longer you’re around them, and the closer you’re around them, the higher the risk of COVID-19.”

Robin Clutters

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