The Charger Blog

Public Health Experts Emphasize Safety this Thanksgiving

As the coronavirus global pandemic continues to spread across the country, public health experts at the University of New Haven are urging the public to be creative in how they celebrate the holidays.

November 23, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Thanksgiving gourds

Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, considers this holiday season to be a "year of compromise." As the number of COVID-19 cases has been on the rise in Connecticut and across the country, he encourages everyone to remain cautious, even if that means celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year.

An assistant professor in the University’s Department of Health Administration and Policy, Dr. Tran acknowledges that for many people, Thanksgiving will be a time to make some very difficult decisions.

Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH
Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Health Administration and Policy.

“In order to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and slow down the increasing number of cases, we will have to sacrifice traditional holiday celebrations,” he said. “However, we are all encouraged to reach out to our loved ones. It is a difficult time for everyone. Reach out by calling your relatives, or by setting up Zoom or FaceTime conversations with them.”

Dr. Tran is one of several University of New Haven faculty members who have recently spoken with local and national media about celebrating safely this Thanksgiving, as well as throughout the holiday season. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Dr. Tran urged travelers to assess whether anyone in the household they plan to visit could be at a high risk for a severe COVID-19 case, such as an individual who is elderly or has a compromised immune system.

“I would probably try to avoid staying in that same household because I would not want to put that individual at risk of becoming infected,” he said.

‘This small sacrifice can help pay off in the long run’
Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH
Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging them to instead celebrate at home. The agency cited public transportation and transportation hubs as potential risks, since physical distancing can be difficult.

Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, recently told MarketWatch that if one does visit loved ones over Thanksgiving, he recommends spreading out inside the home as much as possible. He also recommended discussing boundaries and the safety precautions everyone has been taking before the visit.

“Come up with a plan that you’re both okay with, keeping in mind the public-health precautions,” he said. “You have a right to say, ‘We’re not visiting.’ I would be cautious about visiting family members who have not been following precautions at this stage.”

Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S.
Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S., director of the University’s Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Program.

Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S., director of the University’s Doctorate of Occupational Therapy program, is also concerned that holiday travel will only further the spread of the virus. In a recent op-ed in the Stamford Advocate, he encouraged the public not to “give the gift of COVID this holiday season.”

“As nation we all must do our logical civic duty and wear a mask while out in public, physically distance, wash our hands, and not gather in even small groups,” he wrote. “This small sacrifice can help pay off in the long run by keeping our nation going, save lives, the economy, and our overall mental health.”

‘We do what we need to do to protect those we love’

In addition to the health impact, the pandemic may also hit travelers in their wallets this holiday season. From extra sanitizer and masks to hotel expenses for quarantining, travelers can expect costs they may not have faced in previous years.

Jan Jones, Ph.D.
Jan Jones, Ph.D.

“We’ll continue to see an increase in pandemic-related fees from tourism and hospitality businesses,” said Jan Jones, Ph.D., a professor in the University of New Haven’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, to USA Today. “Many are struggling to keep up with the new health and safety standards and are incurring increased pandemic-related costs.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Tran still encourages everyone to limit holiday travel as much as possible and to avoid large gatherings over Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. He and his family are still planning to celebrate the holidays this year, but they are going to do so a bit differently to keep everyone safe.

“My family is planning to open gifts virtually this year, since my grandmother is in an age group that is at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection,” he said. “We do what we need to do to protect those we love. You can still send each other thoughtful gifts during this time. There are so many ways to be creative this year.”