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How to host a safe outdoor Thanksgiving (and decide if you should)

By Grace Dickinson, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Parenting News

Thanksgiving is usually a time we cozy up around the dinner table and share food and stories with those we love. But given the pandemic, experts are recommending a change in holiday plans this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers hosting people for a small outdoor dinner as moderately risky, as compared to low-risk activities like a virtual Thanksgiving or a dinner with only people who live in your household. And with rising coronavirus rates, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley advises families forego holiday gatherings altogether.

But if you do plan to do something anyway, how should you think about the risk?

"This is a personal decision, and there are risk-versus-benefit calculations that people have to make," says Usama Bilal, epidemiologist and assistant professor at Drexel University. "I would strongly advise against any sort of indoor gathering, but I wouldn't necessarily advise against an outdoor one as long as you take the usual precautions — maintaining distance, wearing masks, and limiting the number of people."

There are other tactics you can take, too, to make open-air festivities safer. But remember, masking up and social distancing generally remain your best defenses.

Here's how experts say to approach an outdoor Thanksgiving celebration.



The more people, the more risk you invite to the party. But just how small should you keep the guest list? The answer may depend on the size of your yard.

"Make sure the different households can be kept six feet apart," says Bilal.

Map out table and chair placements in advance, including a spacious area for the serving table.


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