It’s been a year of sacrifice, social distancing and skyrocketing stress. Can we at least enjoy Thanksgiving?

In terms of risk, the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday couldn’t be worse. The coronavirus is raging across the country, setting new daily infection records. More than 235,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, and small gatherings are believed to be fueling much of the spread. While public health officials caution against family and friends gathering in homes for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, they know many people plan to spend the holiday together anyway.

The solution? A scaled-back Thanksgiving — with open windows, fewer people and a big serving of precautions.

“You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. “But this may not be the time to have a big family gathering. That doesn’t mean no one should gather for Thanksgiving. It’s not going to be one size fits all. You’ve got to be careful. It depends on the vulnerability of the people you’re with and your need to protect them.”

Many of us feel safer gathering in our homes, rather than at a restaurant or public space, but experts say we underestimate the risk when it comes to private get-togethers. Homes are now a main source of coronavirus transmission, accounting for up to 70 percent of cases in some areas. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 101 households in Tennessee and Wisconsin found that people who carried the virus, most of whom had no symptoms, infected more than half of the other people in their homes.

Health officials say they believe small home gatherings are fueling the spread of Covid-19 in part because most homes, by design, are poorly ventilated. Most office buildings, hospitals and restaurants have mechanical ventilation systems that pull outside air inside, push stale air outside and recirculate indoor air through filters. But homes typically don’t have those kinds of ventilation systems, and indoor air changes far more slowly as it leaks through small cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Many homes, in fact, are sealed up tight to make them more energy efficient.


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