CDC and State Guidance on Thanksgiving: Travel and Gatherings

Regulation | November 09, 2020 | by Dee Pekruhn

Within the last few weeks, CDC has issued guidance on the upcoming fall and winter holidays, including some specific tips for Thanksgiving, events and gatherings, travel, and persons at high risk for transmission of COVID 19. Now, some states have issued their own Thanksgiving recommendations and requirements; we review these, together with relevant highlights from the CDC guidance, below. This article will be updated as new and revised guidance is issued; this article is up to date as of Monday, November 9 2020.

Both the CDC and some states have issued targeted guidance to assist the general public, as well as businesses, to make informed and, ideally, safe decisions regarding holiday travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving. In this article, we summarize and offer ‘essential highlights’ from the voluminous guidance that has been published, with emphasis on those recommendations from CDC or the states that are new or are expanded beyond what has already been offered for travel, holidays and general get-togethers.


CDC: Essential Highlights on Thanksgiving, Travel, and Gatherings

Below, we offer direct quotes from the CDC’s general holiday page that expand on their common COVID guidance. These recommendations could be applied to aging services providers’ congregate living settings. Hyperlinks are included where additional, detailed information is available.

Explicit guidance on who “should not attend in-person holiday gatherings.”

  • Beyond all the ‘usual’ groups who are in the high risk categories, CDC directly states here that “if you are an older person… you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who are not in your household.” Interpretation of this for residents of aging services provider communities can vary, but many members have concluded that this means either ‘residents who live together’ or ‘residents of the same cohort,’ such as assisted living or the nursing home.

Hosting or Attending a Gathering:

  • Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season.
  • Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • All attendees should have a plan for where to store their mask while eating and drinking.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.”

Food and Drink at Small Gatherings:

  • “Have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
  • Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations.
  • Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event.”

Travel and Overnight Stays:

  • “Wear masks while inside the house. Masks may be removed for eating, drinking, and sleeping, but individuals from different households should stay at least 6 feet away from each other at all times.
  • Hosts and guests should have a plan for what to do if someone becomes sick.
  • Improve ventilation by opening windows and doors or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.”

If Exposed to COVID during the Holiday:

Thanksgiving Specific:

  • “Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Consider other Thanksgiving alternatives, such as: getting together virtually with family and friends outside of your household, playing games or watching parades and sports together at home, shopping online on the day after Thanksgiving and using contactless delivery.
  • 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.”

States’ Guidance: Essential Highlights on Thanksgiving, Travel, and Gatherings


Several states have issued direct guidance to the general public regarding gatherings and travel for Thanksgiving. Below, we offer the most ‘essential highlights’ and areas where the state has recommendations or requirements above and beyond what CDC has issued for the holiday. Hyperlinks are included for each state for more detailed language and information from that state.

· California

o Has several mandatory requirements to host or participate in private events.

o Stipulates that three households maximum may gather together for the holiday.

o Explicitly states that families may not combine additional households by making concurrent reservations in outdoor parks.

o Explicitly states that people with COVD symptoms must stay home.

o Stipulates that seating at private events must provide 6 ft distance in all directions

o States that, if not using single serve items or utensils, one person must serve food and beverages while practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a mask.

o States that guests and hosts at private events may only remove face masks when eating and drinking and six feet away from others.

o Requires that singers must wear masks.

· Connecticut

o Recommends that everyone get a flu vaccine before the holidays.

o Asks people to consider getting tested 72 hours prior to visiting a loved one in a nursing home.

o Asks people to avoid gathering with people outside of your household, those who are 65 or who have medication conditions that put them at risk for COVID.

o Suggests that hosts ask party guests to self-quarantine prior to the gathering

o Suggests that hosts provide PPE to guests.

o Encourages people to have an after-travel plan. Other post travel guidance includes: Monitor your health, extra precaution 14 d after travel, and don’t visit people at highest risk for COVID after travel.

o Requires College students returning from state on an advisory list to self-quarantine. They should also avoid vulnerable adults for 14 days prior to gatherings.

· District of Columbia

o Suggests that people wear masks during the gathering.

Recommends that hosts cancel gatherings if anyone is sick.

o Offers Thanksgiving activities in low/ medium/ high risks categories.

o Stipulates that gests from states in high risk categories must self-quarantine for 14 days.

o Suggests that hosts keep people out of places where food is prepared.

· Idaho

o Offers guidance for both public and private events.

o Stipulates that event tents should be considered “indoors.”

o Suggests that hosts postpone or cancel events that include or expose high risk individuals, include 65+ individuals.

o Recommends that hosts and planners should develop contingency plans.

· Illinois

o Encourages people to wear a face covering inside the home where you are visiting.

o Suggests that hosts seat household members together.

o Suggests that people who travel should limit ‘outside the home activities’ two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.

· Minnesota

o Suggests that people wear a mask around people who don’t live with you.

o Requires businesses and venues to develop a preparedness plan, including what they will do if people do not comply. If guests do not comply, MN guidance says to stop the event.

o Mandates that in private homes, 10 people maximum are permitted indoors, and 25 people maximum outdoors.

o Suggests that for restrooms, hosts should set a maximum number of people who may use it at a time, install touchless mechanisms on doors and trash, and encourage social distancing.

As more states offer new or expanded guidance for the winter holidays, we will update this article with ‘essential highlights’ accordingly. Has your state issued guidance and you don’t see it here? Please let us know by contacting Dee Pekruhn at