The Do’s and Don’ts to Celebrating Thanksgiving Safely in 2020

Dr. Paul Kilgore of Wayne State University answers all your questions about COVID-19 and the safety of holiday gatherings.

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the country, including here in Michigan. The healthcare system is once again overwhelmed, with some hospitals nearing capacity. This fact is complicated by the impending holiday season.

“With more extended family gatherings, there’s always a risk of transmission…there is a chance that there could be someone there who is asymptomatic who could spread (COVID-19).” – Dr. Paul Kilgore, Wayne State University.

Families are assessing the safety of their typical celebratory gatherings and discussing how to adapt. Public health officials say these small gatherings are dangerous at this stage in the pandemic.

Listen: Dr. Kilgore on how to plan for a pandemic holiday season.


Dr. Paul Kilgore is an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He is also the principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System’s novel coronavirus vaccine trial. Kilgore spoke with Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today about how to keep safe during the holidays.

The Do’s and Don’ts of holiday gatherings:

  • DO keep in mind that the virus travels differently indoors and in cooler air. “We know as people come indoors and as the proximity of individuals becomes closer, it’s much easier for the droplets… to move from one person to another,” says Dr. Kilgore. He adds, “In the wintertime with the lower humidity… the respiratory droplets can travel farther than they would in the warmer summer months when there is higher humidity.”
  • DO wear masks and face coverings, even when outdoors.
  • DO stay socially distanced. Even if you’re gathering outdoors it’s important to stay six feet apart according to Kilgore.
  • DO wash your hands frequently. Hand hygiene is second only behind mask-wearing in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 says Kilgore.
  • DO gather in a well-ventilated space. Kilgore says maintaining steady airflow by keeping windows open can help any droplets in the air disseminate more quickly.
  • DON’T invite everyone you know. The state says to keep gatherings limited to ten people and no more than two households, and some experts recommending keeping the guest list even tighter than that. Kilgore says it’s best to keep it to your family already in the household.
  • DON’T make the party last all night. Keeping the gathering short and sweet limits the risk of transmission. Kilgore recommends limiting it to an hour or less and gathering outdoors if possible.

For more information, check out the CDC’s guidelines for holiday celebrations and small gatherings. 

Detroit Today student producer Clare Brennan wrote this post.

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