How We Plan to Stay Healthy Over Thanksgiving

As part of our transparency effort about our school safety plans during the pandemic, we are sharing our suggestions to staff members about precautions to take during the Thanksgiving holiday.

This list of precautionary measures and solutions was informed by our months-long collaboration with public health experts at the CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Many of these suggestions were originally designed for our schools, but we re-shaped them for the home so that our staff members can apply them during the holidays. By coming back to school safe and healthy, we can continue serving our students with a high-quality education.

Below is the first segment of the guide we are giving to employees. You can also learn more about the safety measures we take in our schools every day by clicking here.

Holiday Celebrations and Gatherings in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe.

Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you. People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Information on the number of cases in an area can often be found on the local health department website.
  • Exposure during travelAirports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small, enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.

Lower risk activities

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that does not involve contact with others
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

Moderate risk activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place

Higher risk activities

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

The following people should not attend in-person holiday gatherings

Do not host or attend gatherings with anyone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Gatherings can contribute to the spread of other infectious diseases. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season. Flu vaccines are useful any time during the flu season and can often be accessed into January or later.

If you would like to read our Thanksgiving safety suggestions for employees in its entirety, click here.

New Studies Show Schools with Strong Safety Plans Do Not Increase COVID Exposure Risk to Students and Staff

As more data and research has come in over the past few months about the COVID-19 pandemic, many epidemiology experts have concluded that in-person school does not create increased risks for children or staff members.

A recent story from NPR highlights three recent studies that indicate schools can reopen with a strong safety plan, which Endeavor Schools implemented early on at the beginning of the pandemic so that we could stay open for the children of essential workers. (For more details about our safety plan, click here.)

One of the studies came out of Spain, which has been one of the hardest hit countries during the pandemic. The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya study found no correlation between rising infections and school re-openings. In addition, when students or staff did test positive, 87 percent did not infect anyone at their school.

The Spanish study looked at data from across one country. But Insights for Education conducted a study that looked at data from 191 countries and found that there is no correlation between school re-openings and rising infection rates.

“There is no consistent pattern,” Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary, the CEO of Insights for Education, told NPR. “It’s not that closing schools leads to a decrease in cases, or that opening schools leads to a surge in cases.”

She added: “Schools do not seem to be the superspreaders that people feared they would be.”

The third study came from Yale University and looked at data from 57,000 childcare and education workers from across all 50 U.S. states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. That study found that the workers who continued working in schools during the pandemic did not have higher infection rates compares to those who stayed home.

“Until now, decision makers had no way to assess whether opening child care centers would put staff at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Dr. Walter Gilliam, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the Yale Child Study Center. “This study tells us that as long as there are strong on-site measures to prevent infection, providing care for young children doesn’t seem to add to the provider’s risk of getting sick.”

As more data comes in, the consensus that schools can be safe environments for children and staff alike is growing.

Dr. Anish K. Jha, a professor of public health at Harvard University, recently wrote on Twitter: “You know where we are NOT seeing a lot of spread? In K-12 schools. Schools aren’t immune but we are likely overestimating their danger. We really do need to open more schools.”

Endeavor Schools’ Safety Plan

Of course, the accuracy of this new data is contingent on schools implementing and adhering to a strong safety plan. At Endeavor Schools, we developed our safety plan with public health experts from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University. You can read details about our safety plan on this site and watch the video below.