Local health officials urge Thanksgiving gatherings be held outside

VIDEO: Local health officials urge Thanksgiving gatherings be held outside

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gathering with friends and family for Thanksgiving can increase the chances of getting or spreading the coronavirus.

However, by now most have probably already made their plans.

Epidemiology officials in the Lowcountry advise that outdoor dining is in fact much safer.

MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project Leader Dr. Michael Sweat says it is much safer to gather and dine outside rather than inside this Thanksgiving.

“Really the main thing is the air itself because the ventilation is as good as it gets outside,” Dr. Sweat said. “It dilutes any sort of aerosol or droplets that would be expelled by somebody who may be carrying the virus. So, that is really the main factor is your ability to dilute that air, which substantially reduces the risk.”

Whether people are planning to be at a home or restaurant, he says being outside allows more space and minimizes person-to-person interaction.

Dr. Sweat advises all those dining inside at restaurants to keep their mask on at all times when not eating. He says a lot of people take it off once they sit down, but keeping it on while waiters or waitresses come to the table is important.

Some restaurants have expanded space by adding outdoor dining space and putting up outdoor tents. Dr. Sweat says it’s better to eat outside, even if it’s under a tent rather than being inside a building. That’s unless the tent is completely sealed.

Sweat says it’s particularly important for people to keep their distance as that’s been proven to reduce the spread of the virus, even when outside.

Limiting time in close contact with guests, especially folks who aren’t staying at their host’s house helps reduce the spread of the virus as well.

For people who have to gather with others inside, Dr. Sweat says ventilating the space will help.

“Opening those windows, maybe each side of the room. It’s particularly good if you could take a small fan and put it in one of the windows facing out. It’ll blow the air out and it’ll keep the air moving through the room,” Dr. Sweat said. “And in our environment, you can do that and keep a comfortable temperature. Those can make enormous differences in terms of minimizing the risk.”

He adds that for those who have to eat inside because of weather or other reasons, opening windows, even just three or four inches, makes a difference in air turnover.

His final advice to people is to stay safe as the holiday season is just beginning.

“We’ve put so much into trying to protect ourselves to now, I just want to encourage people. We’re coming into probably the most difficult period, because there’s a lot of transmission happening throughout the country,” Dr. Sweat said. “I’m trying to encourage people to stick with it. You know we’ve invested so much, it’s likely right around the corner in the months to come that we’re going to start getting vaccines and we’ll get back to normal. So, don’t give up now.”

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