As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country, it’s a safe bet that Thursday’s Turkey Day celebrations will look a little different this year.

Over the last seven days, more than one million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States, leaving health experts to concur that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to avoid travel and to only gather and celebrate with those who reside in your household.

“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website said. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

And while holiday gatherings with family and friends are traditions for many, they can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu as well.

But that doesn't mean America’s annual day of thanks has to be a downer this year. These CDC-recommended lower risk activities can be fun and safe Thanksgiving Day alternatives that can help limit putting yourself and others at risk:

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  • Schedule and host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you. To encourage conversation, have them share recipes and show their turkey, dressing or other dishes they have prepared.

  • Watch television and play games with people in your household.

  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports and movies at home.

  • Find fun games to play.

  • Safely prepare traditional dishes and deliver them to family and neighbors in a way that does not involve contact with others (for example, leave them on the porch).

  • Participate in a gratitude activity, like writing down things you are grateful for and sharing with your friends and family.

  • Instead of going out for Black Friday, shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.

However, if you do decide to host or attend an in-person Thanksgiving gathering, be sure to social distance and follow these CDC guidelines:

If hosting a gathering

  • Limit the number of guests in your home.

  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.

  • If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.

  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

If attending a gathering

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.

  • Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.

  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.

  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets and disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.

And if you do decide to travel for the holiday, be sure to wear a mask with two or more layers, stay at least six feet away (about two arm lengths) from others who do not live with you, and wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Also, keep hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol, with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands. Some other CDC travel tips include:

  • Checking travel restrictions before you go.

  • Getting your flu shot before you travel.

  • Always wearing a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people who you don’t live with.

  • Avoiding touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Bringing extra supplies, such as disinfectant wipes.

  • Knowing when to delay your travel.

The CDC has compiled a list of lower risk activities that can be fun and safe Thanksgiving Day celebration alternatives. Photo by Adobe Stock.
The CDC has compiled a list of lower risk activities that can be fun and safe Thanksgiving Day celebration alternatives. Photo by Adobe Stock.

CDC risk level assessment for Thanksgiving activities

Lower risk activities

  • A small dinner with the people in your household.

  • A virtual dinner with family and friends.

  • Preparing food for family and neighbors (especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who are social distancing), and delivering it to them without person-to-person contact.

  • Shopping online rather than in person on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

  • Watching sports events, parades and movies at home.

Moderate risk activities

  • A small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community.

  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people are taking COVID-19 safety precautions like using hand sanitizer, wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

  • Small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.

Higher risk activities

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving.

  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race.

  • Attending crowded parades.

  • Using alcohol or drugs.

  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.