It's kind of like having unprotected sex and then being shocked when you're pregnant
If you are planning to travel for Thanksgiving, then you should know how to properly use public health guidance to protect yourself and your loved ones. You must be prepared to face the consequences of attending a gathering in a pandemic with individuals outside of your household. Much like preganancy, the only 100% way to prevent spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones, is abstinence. Also, much like birth control methods, these suggestions are only as effective as their user.
Testing is not a guarantee
Wouldn't it be great if we could all get tested right before the Thanksgiving that way we would "know" if we had COVID-19 and we wouldn't go. This is like taking the birth control pill and expecting that you won't get an STD from unprotected sex. You must understand that there are different types of testing available and what they are used for. If you are hoping to see family and use testing to ease fears, you should have a PCR test done and quarantine for minimum of 7 days before seeing family. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days but many of us are not able to quarantine for that long. Quarantine requires that you do not go anywhere or have any interaction with anyone outside of your houshold. If your results are negative, you do not have any symptoms, then you most likely do not have COVID-19 and you could possibly see family without infecting them.
Here is an example of what could happen:
Danny wants to see his family for Thanksgiving. He gets tested on Friday and his results
are negative. He then goes to work on Sunday and is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual. He has a negative test and does not have any symptoms so he goes to visit family for Thanksgivining. The next morning ( 5 days after exposure, which is the most common time for symptoms to appear after an exposure), Danny wakes up with a runny nose and he doesn't feel great. He gets another test and it results as positive. He now has exposed all of his family members that he was at Thanksgiving with.
Your runny nose might be COVID-19
I would probably guess that 8/10 people that I talk to who have tested positive for COVID-19 all say to me "I would have never guessed THIS RUNNY NOSE(or other vague mild symptom) is COVID-19." I have said it a few times but just incase you need a reminder, COVID-19 is tricky. Some people have zero symptoms, some have one or two, some die from COVID-19 but none of them were felt so deathly sick the very first moment they were contagious with COVID-19, that they knew to stay away from others. I am begging you, don't assume your new mild symptoms are allergies or a hangover, please just stay home and go get tested.
Masks are a must
Facial coverings are like condoms. For starters, they must fit and they must be worn effectively for them to actually work. The mask must cover your mouth and nose and you should wear it for the entire time you are with others outside of your household, no matter how far away you are from them. Your mask should only be off when you are eating or drinking. If you would like to casually sip something in the presense of people from outside your household, remember to increase the space between you to 6ft or greater, open some windows to increase ventiation or head outside.
Think of what life was like before COVID
If you must get together, pretend that you don't like your family. Only visit them for a short amount of time, sit 6 feet or more away from them at the dinner table, don't pass the mashed potatoes and instead tell them to get up and make their own plate. I think that quarantine and working from home makes us all crave some human interaction. We should indulge enough for the sake of our mental health but not to the point that we take uneccessary risks with our physical health.
Plan for the worst
If you decide to travel for Thanksgiving, make sure that you are prepared to deal with the consequences. Going to a gathering means that you have accepted that there is a risk that this could possibly turn into a disaster. You should have a plan for how you will prevent your mistake from becoming everyone else's problem. You must follow the MA travel ban and be tested either 72 hours prior to arrival to MA or be tested in MA and quarantine until you have those results. Although it is not required, it is best to wait 5 days after you have arrived in MA and then be tested with a PCR test. You should continue to monitor for symptoms the full 14 days after your return, avoid contact with others that would constitute close contact and then if anything does show up, you should stay home and get tested. Like unprotected sex, there are potential life long ramifications from your decision.
November 6, 2020 marks my one year anniversary for a job I never would have taken had I known that there was going to be a pandemic. Clearly, I have run out of eloquent and polically correct ways to educate our community. I feel lucky to be the public health nurse for a community that overall has really great compliance which helps keep our numbers low and my sanity intact. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do, please have a safe Thanksgiving.