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Advice on how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during a pandemic
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Advice on how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during a pandemic

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While Thanksgiving often is associated with long lines at the airport, traffic jams on the road and large family gatherings, this year will look a lot different for families across the Region.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says staying home and celebrating with people in your own household is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

With many travel restrictions in place, including in Chicago where an emergency travel order has been issued, traveling may not even be possible.

Dr. Erica Kaufman West, an infectious disease physician with Franciscan Health, says it is not safe to travel at all.

“It’s not safe to visit family who don't live with you, and it’s not safe to gather with people outside your immediate home members,” she said. “This is based on CDC guidelines for safest holiday activities. We cannot afford for even one more person to get ill and require hospitalization as our hospitals are slowly filling to capacity.”

That leaves many families wondering how they can still celebrate Thanksgiving, even without the traditional gathering.

For West and her family, that means getting creative.

“We are making a meal with traditional Thanksgiving food, like sweet potatoes, but not doing our traditional meal,” she said. “Everyone has picked a food, and we are doing nontraditional recipes with that food.”

Family members will pack them up and then do a socially distanced drop-off at her parents’ house.

“Then we are going to Zoom at each course and talk about the recipe,” West said.

Those who want to make traditional dishes can take turns dropping off each part to a family who might not have otherwise had a meal, she says.

“If everyone is close enough, you can do a distanced potluck where whoever does the first dish drops that off at everyone’s house,” West said. “Then the person making the second dish goes around.”

Instead of swapping food, West says family members can swap cards that share why they’re thankful for one another.

“We don’t tell each other enough why we care and this is a good year to do that,” she said.

Thanksgiving also can be a great time to focus on a service project as a family.

Alexandra Fung, who lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, is CEO of Upparent, a site that focuses on family activities and events in the Chicago region. She says, these days, the site (upparent.com) is more focused on sharing ideas for activities to do safely at home, including on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a great time for families to engage in virtual service opportunities, doing something as a family to help or support others in our community,” Fung said.

Her site includes several home volunteer opportunities, including making handmade blankets for Project Linus, an organization that provides comfort and security to ill and traumatized children. No-sew fleece blankets can be easy for kids of all ages to create, and the organization’s website lists contact information for drop-off locations in Northwest Indiana.

Other ideas include creating care packages for military members deployed overseas, checking with local group home facilities to see if there are any “adopt-a-grandparent” opportunities and setting up Zoom chats, and checking with local animal shelters to see whether there are fostering opportunities over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

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