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Celebrating Thanksgiving Safely—the New Normal at Holiday Time

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November 13, 2020

By Linda Viertel–

Thanksgiving, our nation’s quintessential non-religious holiday based on the joys of food, drink, family and friends coming together, will be experiencing a serious make-over this year. COVID-19 has made travel difficult, if not impossible. Scientists and medical authorities suggest that large gatherings should be limited to ten or fewer; elderly family members are urged not to attend; outside activities are encouraged (most challenging in the Northeast’s cold November weather), and masks should be worn whenever possible. Social distancing will be a challenge at the Thanksgiving table.

Many, already mindful of guidelines issued by the CDC (see below), plan to celebrate nonetheless, albeit carefully. Some are choosing to enjoy the holiday within their own family “pods.” Others have scotched plans to travel to be with family and may be alone, perhaps enjoying their repast with distant relations on Zoom. Whatever way you have chosen, please take time to read how best to do so with the safest medical protocols in place.

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Here’s how some other rivertown residents are planning to celebrate their Thanksgiving:

  • Tom Butler, Tarrytown Mayor: We will celebrate turkey day with my eldest daughter Kimberly and family (who lives in Cary, NC) and my youngest daughter Ashley (who lives in Brooklyn, NY) via Zoom. And with Cheryl’s parents, both in their 90s, we will have a telephone Thanksgiving reunion. Both my sons, Blake and Brent, will celebrate with us here in Tarrytown. By the way, I will make a homemade apple pie for the table (LOL but for real).
  • Allison Fine (former Congressional candidate) and Scott Freiman (musician), Sleepy Hollow: Our tradition is to go to Boston (more specifically Brookline) and have a large celebration with my cousins and siblings. This year, we’ll be home (which means I have to do all the cooking!) with my boys and my mother. We will Zoom with the rest of the family midday to shake a turkey leg at one another. 🙂
  • Drew Fixell, Former Tarrytown Mayor: We haven’t nailed it down yet, but we’re leaning toward only having our current six-adult “pod,” with no additions at all. Normally, we’d have 30-50 people, but that’s not happening.
  • Bill Florin, commander of American Legion post, Dobbs Ferry: Normally, we go up to our son’s house in Connecticut, but not this year. My wife Pam and I will dine alone, but thanks to the Dobbs Ferry Senior Center, we will have a Thanksgiving dinner, prepared and delivered to our door in advance.
  • Tim Hall, President of Mercy College: My wife and I typically celebrate Thanksgiving rather quietly, with a meal at one of Westchester’s restaurants. Our children are grown and in South Korea and Austin, Texas, respectively, so they aren’t normally on hand. This year’s pandemic will probably inspire us to order takeout from one of the restaurants we would normally eat at in person.
  • Dr. Kris Harrison, Superintendent of Irvington schools: Each year, I have enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with my immediate family and a few other extended family members. This is then expanded upon throughout the weekend by a brunch with many others and a venture with family and friends to the theater. However, this year, it will be a small dinner of just my family to eliminate any possible travel and exposure to others. Gone will be those fun times at brunch and the theater.
  • Ellen Prior/Mark Morganelli (musician), owners of The Jazz Forum: Thanksgiving 2020 – will miss hosting 20+ people (a Zoom toast may have to suffice) but we’re looking forward to a more relaxed and less crowded holiday with our immediate family pod, including my 94 year-old mother.  Our kids will have to do my brother’s duty of making the turkey; not my forte!
  • Brian Smith, Irvington MayorNormally we host about 12 people, including Keira’s parents and my mother, who are getting on in years and have to be careful, and we usually have rotating guests. This year it’s going to be just the four of us. Our daughter just got back from Tulane in New Orleans. Under the new protocols, she’s going to be tested tomorrow.
  • Ken Wray, Sleepy Hollow Mayor: In keeping with the new rules (10 or less people), we will be celebrating with our family over 2 days — Thursday and Friday. And yes, the folks on Friday won’t just get the leftovers.

And one bonafide health expert:

  • Dr. Sherlita Amler, Westchester Commissioner of Health: I’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner with my husband, Dr. Robert Amler, at our home. We’re probably not even going to have a turkey.

Here are the full CDC guidelines for a safe holiday celebration:

Here is a shortened version of the more extensive explanation above and directly related to Thanksgiving :

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Updated Nov. 12, 2020

Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Follow these tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday safer.

The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer.

Everyone Can Make Thanksgiving Safer

Wear a mask

  • Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

Wash your hands

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Attending a Gathering

Make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps while attending a Thanksgiving 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.

Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering

If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. Other steps you can take include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • 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, make sure to open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

Thanksgiving Travel

Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.

If you do travel

  • Check travel restrictions before you go.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

Consider Other Thanksgiving Activities

Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you

  • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.

Watch television and play games with people in your household

  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
  • Find a fun game to play.


  • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
  • Use contactless services for purchased items, like curbside pick-up.
  • Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others.

Other Activities

  • 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.

And, lastly, El Pais ( a Spanish language newspaper in Spain) published an interesting graphic of what happens when people get together in a room in terms of airborne virus spread:








Andrea Martone - real estate in Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and the Rivertowns

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