Pandemic Thanksgiving recipe for safety: Local doctor says to get creative


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine says there are several steps you can take to stay healthy this Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving is arguably the most popular family holiday,” said Dr. Harp Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise. “It gathers family members and friends, often from far away, for a time of closeness and usually involves sharing a meal. All of these are high risk activities in the midst of the pandemic. Keeping our families and friends safe will necessitate changing some of our traditions.”

As Monroe County sees a larger number of new COVID-19 cases, the positivity rate for testing has improved in recent days. Dr. Harp noted a deeper dive into the data reveals a concerning trend as it relates to Thanksgiving gatherings. “The highest number of cases are in the 20 to 29 age group, with the 50 to 59 age group a close second. Translating that, we get young people who have recently left home, often moving far away for jobs or schooling, and their parents. Thanksgiving potential brings these two groups together along with the possibility of some vulnerable grandparents.”

When it comes to mitigating the risk for contracting COVID-19, Dr. Harp said we should stay in our current bubbles as much as possible. “It would be great to see those long lost cousins, but if we haven’t seen them since March, now is not the time. This disease is catching and deadly. We need to avoid physically combining bubbles as much as possible, not just during the holiday, but especially during the holiday. In case some viewers haven’t heard, unlimited Zoom is available from midnight on Thanksgiving until 6AM the next day. Be creative. Think about having each bubble cook separately and eat separately while zooming. Bubbles living in the same town could even deliver food to one another.”

For those who choose to gather with extended family outside their current bubble, Dr. Harp offered some important safety measures which can be taken to remain healthy. “Groups which will be extending their bubble boundaries should consider making accommodations to promote safety and decrease the risk of transmission. Don’t forget that everyone should be considered capable of transmission, even those with a recent negative test and those who have had COVID-19 already. We know that poor air circulation increases the risk of transmission. Open some windows or even eat outside if possible. We know that being closer than six feet increases transmission. Use the biggest space available and encourage people to spread out, especially when eating. Not wearing a mask, which is necessary for eating, and coughing, which can sometimes be triggered by eating, both increase transmission. Be careful about hygiene and cross-contamination. Consider having one person wearing gloves setting up individual plates of food to prevent contamination of serving implements. Do not refill plates. Use new plates and fill those from the common pots and dishes too. Use disposable cutlery and plates.”

As you prepare to celebrate this Pandemic Thanksgiving, Dr. Harp said, “Remember to be thankful – thankful for several potentially effective vaccines which may be available within weeks to months, for a possible home test, and for the opportunity to be with the people we love, in-person or virtually.”

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