What's The Risk Of Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 9:12 AM, Nov 24, 2020

As the holiday season begins, you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19 as you make plans to celebrate. 

We asked the experts, what’s the risk of hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving this year? How can I serve a meal and limit risk?

Their take: The risk of contracting COVID-19 from hosting Thanksgiving is high.

"The risk is actually quite high to have any indoor gatherings with people that are not in your immediate family that you live with every single day," Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, infectious disease specialist at Nebraska Medicine said.

"You may want to rethink that gathering and move to a virtual mechanism instead," Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said. 

"How well is the area set up to allow for distancing between family members and guests? And how good is the ventilation? If you are inside and you can't have windows open and you're forced to sit close together, it would be optimal to have people being masked while you're serving," Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, Infectious Disease Specialist at Nebraska Medicine said.

"And when they're not eating or drinking as much as possible. But again, as you take that mask off and talk and eat or drink at the same time, there will still be risk that will occur during that period for the spray of aerosols or droplets," Cawcutt said.

"The use of fans in the area can also help reduce your risk. You want to make sure that you've got really good ventilation and good circulation in the room where you're hosting your dinner. The best thing you can do is have a couple of box fans — one drawn into into the room, one exhausting air out of the room, making sure that that fan that's blowing into the room isn't blowing directly on anybody," Gonsenhauser said.

"Probably the safest is not to have other people over right now. Most parts of the country, you couldn't do this, say, in the backyard or, you know, at a picnic table in the backyard or something like that over the summer. That was definitely a good option to have. But now it's going to be tough," Dr. Irfan Hafiz, infectious disease physician and Northwest Region chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine, said. 

For more answers on what is low, medium, or high risk, visit