In a normal year, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with friends during a night out. But since it usually turns into an unofficial bar crawl, you might be wondering if it’s safe to go out on Thanksgiving Eve 2020. Here's why experts say you might want to forego your traditional outing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before you begin to think about a night out, you should first consider the different state and local laws governing COVID-related restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining for restaurants and bars. While local governments normally come up with these regulations based on community risk and current coronavirus infection numbers, it's important to note as of Nov. 13, cases are spiking around the country, and due to high levels of expected travel during the holidays, some activities might be less safe during Thanksgiving than during non-holiday times — you can keep up with the latest coronavirus holiday guidance on the CDC's holiday celebration webpage.
Dr. Michelle Barron, M.D., senior medical director for infection prevention and control at UCHealth, tells Elite Daily the colder weather and holiday gatherings can contribute to the spread of coronavirus, especially in situations where social distancing is hard to enforce or you might be taking off your mask to eat and drink in indoor settings.
"The key thing to remember right now is that if you look across the United States [as of Nov. 10], there [are many] states having a significant surge in the number of cases," she says. "For every one person that's infected, two to three people can get infected. Then those two to three people that were at the bar go home, and then [it's] two to three more people, and you can see why this is going to be a very challenging winter."
To stay safe, it may be best to postpone Thanksgiving Eve plans to next year. "People need to be social and to have that human connection, I totally understand," Dr. Barron says. "But with the rates so high, the odds are against you in terms of the potential risk of being exposed."
Temperatures dropping also means more people will be celebrating indoors, creating a high-risk environment for contracting the virus. Dr. John Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at Berkeley Public Health, tells Elite Daily it's "too risky" to take off your mask during indoor gatherings. “Indoor gatherings are dangerous during this pandemic," he warns.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that staying home is the best way to stay safe during the pandemic. With that, the CDC also has guidelines for precautions to take when you do go out. According to the CDC’s guidance for going to restaurants and bars during the pandemic as of Oct. 29, the lowest risk option for dining out is using a drive-thru, ordering delivery, or choosing curbside pickup. The risk increases as you eat on-site, even outdoors where all tables are spaced at least 6 feet apart. The risk is even higher with indoor dining and as precautions around seating capacity and social distancing are relaxed, both indoors and outdoors.
With the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 13, it may be even more risky than usual to go out to a bar or restaurant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. According to Dr. Barron, since many infected people can be asymptomatic at first, it's very easy for people to spread the virus without realizing.
"You can feel fine for a couple of days before you have symptoms. All it takes is one person in a bar or a restaurant that's feeling fine," she says. "So they're not even doing anything wrong, per se, just maybe just a little too close to you and you're not wearing masks because you're eating or you're drinking."
If you do decide to hang out with friends, Dr. Swartzberg recommends going outdoors, staying with members of your bubble, staying at least 6 feet apart from other people, and wearing a mask if you aren't able to keep proper distance — especially if you're interacting with people outside our bubble. And as always, you should stay home if you are feeling sick.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.
Dr. John Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., clinical professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health's Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology
Dr. Michelle Barron, Senior medical director for infection prevention and control at UCHealth