With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, California officials have released some celebration guidelines for a safe holiday while ensuring residents remain as fearful of Covid as humanly possible. The official rules, released by the state’s health and human services department, are mandatory and pertain to private family gatherings. As with all state mandates regarding the Covid pandemic, the rules may seem extreme, but Governor Gavin Newsome hopes all residents understand they are well-meant to prevent further spread of the virus.
According to the official release as presented on the California Public Health Department’s website, dated October 9, 2020, this order “applies to private gatherings, and all other gatherings not covered by existing sector guidance are prohibited. Gatherings are defined as social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place. When people from different households mix, this increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19.” The order further indicates that some areas may be stricter, and residents celebrating Thanksgiving should inquire locally to confirm the exact rules that will be enforced.
No singing and two hours max! Could it really be that bad? Well the official rules break it down like this:
- Attendance – no more than three households can attend and the smaller the number of attendees the better (be sure to make a list of names and numbers just in case contact tracing is necessary);
- Eat outdoors – eating outside is safer; therefore, the meal must be outdoors. Participants may go inside to use restrooms (yes it literally says this). If multiple gatherings are held in a public space (i.e. parks), they must not mix;
- Don’t attend if feeling poorly or in a high-risk group – although it does not deny the elderly or immuno-compromised, the warning is there. If your profile as high-risk, you should skip the turkey this year;
- Social distance and use good hand hygiene – the outdoor space must be large enough so that participants can be six feet apart. “Seating must provide at least 6 feet of distance (in all directions—front-to-back and side-to-side) between different households.” Hand washing is a must and hygiene stations for washing or sanitizing must be available;
- The food – “Shared items should not be used during a gathering. As much as possible, any food or beverages at outdoor gatherings must be in single-serve disposable containers. If providing single-serve containers is not possible, food and beverages must be served by a person who washes or sanitizes their hands frequently and wears a face covering. Self-serve items from communal containers should not be used”;
- Wear masks – state-approved masks must be worn and only removed while eating, drinking, or for a medical emergency to apply medication (i.e. inhalers).
- Time limits – two hours or less;
- Singing, chanting, and shouting are strongly discouraged – participants must wear a mask and be six feet apart if doing any of these activities. In addition, participants are asked to do these activities quietly (not above a normal speaking voice);
- Live music – can be allowed but should not be wind instruments; musicians must be six feet apart and at least one of those musicians should be from a household group.
After careful review, the conclusion is that, yes, the rules for private family gatherings in California are that bad. Nothing screams Thanksgiving like disposable containers and hand sanitizing stations.
To put things in perspective, as of October 28th, California has tested over 18 million residents for Covid-19. Of those, the state claims over 900k have tested positive, and 17k have died. That means that .019 percent of Covid cases was the worst-case scenario. These numbers prove that California has a casedemic rather than a pandemic. Now, this is something for which families should give thanks.
The government does have a duty to keep citizens safe, but it’s gone too far when it intrudes with a heavy hand into private family gatherings. The most helpful advice is not attending Thanksgiving dinner if not feeling well and maintaining good handwashing hygiene. As for private gatherings, realistically, the state cannot enforce these guidelines should most families choose not to follow the rules. Further, law-abiding citizens gathering to share a meal should not feel threatened or be shamed while social justice protesters are allowed to break every one of these rules meant to prevent the spread of a virus.