Study: 2 in 5 plan to attend Thanksgiving gatherings with more than 10 people

This holiday season comes with a lot of worry and stress as families try to balance the desire to celebrate together with the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

As much as Emily West wants her kids to be able to celebrate the holidays with their grandparents, she knows it may not be safe.

​“Family is important. And I think the best way we can say, ‘I love you,’ to our families this year is to keep our distance," she said. It’s something families across the nation are struggling with. But as COVID-19 cases remain high, Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser says we all need to be cautious.

“We're going to look back at what happened during hese holiday seasons and we're going to ask ourselves, ‘Were we part of the solution or were we part of the problem?’” he said. 

A new national survey by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds the vast majority of Americans plan to have precautions in place at holiday gatherings like practicing social distancing and asking those with symptoms of COVID-19 not to attend.       

However, about a third say they won’t ask guests to wear masks and nearly two in five expect to attend gatherings of more than ten people.
“When you're gathered together even in a small group around a table at maybe less than the six feet that we'd like to see with those masks down engaged in conversation, that's when the spread of this virus can really happen," said Dr. Gonsenhauser. 
If you plan to have a holiday celebration in person, try to keep the guest list small and consider organizing seating arrangements by household.      

If you have out-of-town guests or plan to travel, pay attention to COVID rates and quarantine requirements in both locations. 
“If you have somebody in your household who's high risk and you're in a low-incidence area, you're going to want to think twice about having a celebration where people are coming from an area where there's a lot of virus in the community.” said Dr. Gonsenhauser. 

And though celebrations will likely look different this year, it’s also an opportunity to make lasting memories.

​“We'll be able to get back to the traditions that we're used to, that we know and love, but this is necessary sacrifice. This is necessary compromise," he said. 

“We're trying to look at this holiday season as not so much what we're going to be missing out on, but maybe new traditions that we're going to be putting in place," West said. 

While outdoor gatherings are safer, experts warn that congregating in tents or other enclosed spaces that are technically outdoors is not safer than indoor gatherings and may give people a false sense of security.       

It’s important to communicate all plans and precautions to guests early to avoid conflict on the day of the gathering.       

Also, ensuring that everyone has their flu shots is an easy way to protect the health of ourselves and our loved ones this holiday season.