Home for the Holidays: South Floridians share how they’re preparing for Thanksgiving amid pandemic

(WSVN) - Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away, and even though COVID-19 numbers are starting to climb, many are still planning holiday get togethers. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek looks at how you can stay safe when you have friends and family home for the holidays.

Abby Siegel is a sophomore at Cornell University in New York. She checks in for mandatory COVID testing on campus every week.

Abby Siegel, South Florida student: “Everyone’s being very safe. We’re getting tested twice a week.”

Abby’s sister, Allison, is a senior at University of Michigan.

Allison Siegel, South Florida student: “I had COVID back in March when I was studying abroad, and so I got retested and tested positive again for the antibodies.”

Both girls look forward to coming home to Miami for the holidays.

Rich Siegel: “In our family, Thanksgiving has always been kind of our holiday.”

But the virus is changing the way they will celebrate.

Rich Siegel, Abby and Allison’s dad: “As long as we can remember, our families would travel from around the country, from the West Coast, Nebraska, from Colorado. We’re not having family coming from out of town, so that’s a big difference.”

They will also trade their more formal indoor dining to an outdoor Thanksgiving meal at the patio table.

Jackie Siegel, Abby and Allison’s mom: “It’s not going to be the same, but we’re going to carry on, carry on the traditions that we have established over the years, and if we need to FaceTime my mother with help in making the pie crust, we will.”

Traditions are important, but so is safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in addition to outdoor dining, you should wear masks when not eating and continue to social distance, even when you’re hosting family members.

Dr. Aileen Marty, FIU: “If you’re having family members come into your home who have been living elsewhere, you want to know what they’ve been doing. Have they been pretty much in quarantine themselves? Have they been isolating all this time? Or have they been in a situation that’s more risky?”

And if you are at increased risk because of illness or preexisting conditions, it is best to avoid gathering with people you don’t live with.

Dr. Aileen Marty: “Just do not forget that people who have recovered may still be shedding enough virus to cause problems for others. People who have recovered are also retesting positive, so this is a very tricky virus with a lot of problems.”

Because we’re in another surge, many South Florida families are now rethinking holiday plans.

Mary Jo Shore, planning Thanksgiving: “This year, we’ve gone back and forth, as I’m sure many people have.”

Mary Jo Shore’s family gatherings have always been huge, with some 50 people coming to dinner, but this year, her sister will host the meal in two different shifts.

Mary Jo Shore: “Her husband’s family will come over. I believe it’s like 2 to 4, and then, our shift is like 5 to 7. They’re going to set up outside. They have some really nice tents that they bought.”

And heaping platters of food will be replaced by individual servings to lessen the possibility of spreading the disease.

Mary Jo Shore: “Instead of making the big soufflé platter, I’m actually going to make it in, like, muffin tins, and so everyone can just grab their own. I’m a big proponent of not cancelling. We’ve been living with this for more than seven months, and to me, the important thing is to be able to continue to live your life, but to live it safely.”

As for the Siegel girls, Allison has a plan for when she gets off the plane.

Allison Siegel: “Whenever I get home, I shower immediately and unpack and wash all my clothes.”

To make sure she doesn’t have COVID, Abby will get tested at school the day before she leaves. She’ll get double protection by wearing two masks on the plane, and she’ll wipe down the seats with a disinfectant.

Abby Siegel: “I’m definitely taking all the precautions possible, so that I don’t catch it on the plane or bring it home to my family.”

Precautions designed to keep everyone as safe as possible during the holidays.

If you would like to learn more about the CDC’s COVID-19 precautions for holiday gatherings, click here.

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