CDC warns against large, potluck-style gatherings for Thanksgiving

Lower risk activities include small dinners within households, online shopping

SAN ANTONIO – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising against buffet-style potlucks and large indoor gatherings this Thanksgiving due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the CDC acknowledges handling food or eating food prepared by others is generally not associated with spreading COVID-19, it is possible the virus could be on surfaces and then transferred to the mouth, nose or eyes.

“It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC states in its latest guidelines for holiday gatherings. “However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread.”

The CDC states people should wash their hands before handling food or eating, limit guests going to the kitchen or grill, consider designating only one person to serve food, and wear a mask if preparing food for guests outside their household.

Rather than potlucks or buffet-like settings, the CDC states, consider asking guests to bring their own food or drinks.

In addition to wearing a cloth mask, the CDC says it’s best to celebrate outdoors as much as possible, wash your hands/use hand sanitizer, don’t go out if you’re feeling COVID-19 symptoms and maintain social distancing.

The CDC also listed three categories of activities — low, moderate and high risk — for a turkey day during the COVID-19 age.


  • Lower risk activities include having a small dinner with people in your household, preparing and delivering food to others, having a virtual dinner, shopping online to avoid stores and watch parades or sports from home.
  • Moderate risk activities include holding small outdoor dinner parties, visiting pumpkin patches or orchards and attending small sporting events that are outdoors.
  • Higher risk activities include shopping in crowded stores, attending crowded parades and attending large indoor gatherings.

If you’re hosting or attending a party, the CDC advises taking these factors into consideration:

  • Check the level of community spread of COVID-19 in your city. “Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees,” the CDC states.
  • Choose a location with good ventilation if the gathering is indoors. Indoor gatherings lend themselves to greater spread of the virus, the CDC states. Consider opening windows or doors.
  • Gatherings shouldn’t be too long, as they pose more of a risk for virus spread.
  • Gatherings should stay limited to reduce the risk of spread. “CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations,” the website states.
  • Host parties with people only from your community if possible.
  • Consider where party attendees are traveling from and their maturity. Guests who do not adhere to social distancing or do not wear masks pose a greater risk, the CDC states.
  • Ask guests to avoid contact with people outside their household prior to attending the gathering.
  • Avoid contact with others, like handshaking, elbow bumping or hugging.
  • Attendees should avoid singing, chanting or shouting, especially when not wearing a mask.

The CDC states large gatherings to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year’s can put people at a greater risk of contracting the virus.

That risk will increase when travel is mixed in, the CDC states.

People should not attend gatherings if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not recovered. Avoid gatherings if you’re a person at increased risk for severe illness.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.