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Health care workers change their holiday meal plans

In order to help slow the spread of the virus, many health care workers are choosing to celebrate the holidays with their immediate family.
Photo by Josh Frenette on Unsplash

Local and state health providers say this is time to be picky about accepting invitations to Thanksgiving dinner and whom to invite into your home to share turkey and dressing.

Doctors who fight COVID-19 everyday are cancelling large Thanksgiving gatherings and following all safety protocols, even if dinner is served in the friendly confines of their own homes.

Turning down a chance to be with friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner, may hurt at first, but doctors say it is likely the best route to take while facing the pandemic.

“If you have any doubts, this is the year to skip it,” Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth’s medical director of infection prevention and control, recently stated in the UCHealth magazine. “The potential consequences of your bringing flu or COVID-19 to your family holiday gathering or acquiring it and bringing it back home afterwards isn’t worth it,” Barron stated in the magazine.

More than one million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last seven days, according to the CDC. The agency said the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate with people with whom you live.

Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading the virus, the CDC said on its website.

The fear of COVID-19 spread prompted Dr. Chris Urbina to pull the plug on a traditional multi-family gathering at his home in Denver. His 93-year-old father will also have to stay in his assisted living facility in Pueblo.

“This is really the hard part,” Urbina said. “Especially for my dad. To him, family is the most important thing in the world for him. That really makes me sad.”

If his dad attended Thanksgiving dinner, he would be quarantined when he returned to his place in Pueblo. “I don’t want to do that to him.” Urbina said.

The family will travel to Pueblo during the day to talk to Urbina’s father via Zoom. “At least he can see us on the screen and hear our voices,” he said.

Thanksgiving dinner this year will draw only he and his wife, son, daughter and six-year-old grandson. Everyone will wear masks and keep a safe distance of at least six feet, Urbina said.

Windows will also be opened and a fan will be used to keep air circulating, he said. “Hopefully it will be nice enough for us to go outside,” Urbina said.

He said a pared down Thanksgiving gathering is worth it if it will help stall the pandemic. “This is just a short-term sacrifice for a long term gain,” Urbina said.

A pot luck dinner for about 30 people is the usual fare for Dr. Heather Isaacson and her family at Thanksgiving.

This year, COVID-19 prompted people to stay at home to celebrate and only Isaacson and her husband will gather around the table.

“Just too many people thought it was too risky, so they just wanted to be responsible,” said Issacson, a pediatrician with the UCHealth Longmont Clinic.

She deals with the ramifications of COVID-19 as a physician as does her husband, a physical therapist who works in an assisted living center. “Our friends and family get it,” Isaacson said. “They understand what we see and they don’t want to add more infections and put more pressure on hospitals.”

Instead of gathering around the table, she will catch up with everyone over Zoom, she said. “I think everybody just thought the best thing to do was to keep things quiet and low.”