Don’t gather on Thanksgiving, NJ says — but if you do, here’s how
TRENTON — New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli issued perhaps her most specific guidelines to date on Monday about Thanksgiving gatherings, with the holiday now a week and a half away.
While announcing retightened indoor and outdoor gathering limits Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said "this will not be a normal Thanksgiving," and Persichilli reiterated state officials' desire to see residents return to the stringent precautions they observed to drive down the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, and to not let their guard down.
What that really means, in short, is to do your best to stay within the "bubble" of your own home, Persichilli said.
"Everyone should celebrate only with members of their immediate household. However, if you do gather with others, please limit the number of attendees," she said. "The best option is to host outdoors, rather than indoors, as much as possible. But even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking."
Persichilli said to properly start quarantining in advance of a Thanksgiving get-together means isolating for 14 days — but there are only 11 until the holiday. Such a quarantine should ideally start "today" if you are interested in expanding your bubble for a day, she said.
With indoor gatherings across the state again limited to 10 people as of Tuesday — although how that may be enforceable in private homes remains in question — the commissioner said there needs to be room enough for all guests to stay six feet apart, and she advised against hugs and handshakes.
Advice previously set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention most notably introduced the concept of "bring your own food," but Persichilli further fine-tuned another CDC recommendation: talking ahead of time about your expectations for the holiday celebration with everyone in your gathering.
That includes not yelling at your TV about the Dallas Cowboys, or really raising your voice at all.
"Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors," Persichilli said. "Keep music levels down so people don't have to shout, to speak loudly, to be heard."
Another idea that differs from years past is to stay out of the kitchen, and resist helping the person responsible for preparing the Thanksgiving meal. However, that person should still take care to keep cooking or eating areas continually cleaned and disinfected.
"Use single-use options, or identify one person to serve shareable items, like salad dressings or food containers, plates, utensils, and condiments," Persichilli said, further suggesting that hosts should provide ample masks, hand sanitizer and soap, tissues, and single-use paper towels.
If your party must be held indoors, Persichilli recommended opening windows and doors for extra ventilation, or at least using the continuous circulation option if you have central air and heating.
And what to do if you are indeed planning to stay in your bubble? The CDC said meals can still be "shared" by dropping off prepared dishes on friends and relatives' porches. Groups can even gather virtually to cook together and swap recipes.
As for Black Friday, just as much a part of the holiday weekend as anything else, officials urge you to stay out of stores, and order gifts online.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.