Gov. Charlie Baker is urging families not to gather in large groups at Thanksgiving, and instead limit gatherings to immediate families, and to perhaps have virtual celebrations.
In a press briefing Tuesday announcing state Department of Public Health guidelines on Thanksgiving, Baker said it’s large informal gatherings that are responsible for the recent uptick in cases in Massachusetts.
It’s a big step for a governor of the commonwealth where the first Thanksgiving was held in 1627 at Plymouth to call for a more low-key celebration among families. He said people need to follow the guidelines to keep the economy open and children in schools.
“The holidays have to look and feel different this year, if we’re going to keep up the fight against COVID,” Baker said. “I know that’s hard to say, and in some respects it’s even harder to do, but the science on this one is pretty clear.”
He asked people to think of their loved ones, who could get seriously ill or even die if they were exposed to the coronavirus. “It’s simply a bad idea to risk exposing them, and as I’ve said before, this virus, especially for people in those categories, has no mercy,” he said. “COVID won’t take a vacation, it certainly won’t respect the holiday, and we need to respect that when we make plans on how to spend that weekend.”
The DPH guidelines for Thanksgiving include wearing masks when not eating or drinking, wearing masks while cooking, opening windows for ventilation, and not sharing utensils, among other things.
Marylou Sudders, secretary of Health and Human Services, said the best way to handle Thanksgiving is to have people in the kitchen preparing plates, similar to a restaurant, rather than have people passing bowls and serving platters at a table.
Massachusetts over the past week has seen case totals that have rivaled April and May during the pandemic surge.
Baker said people under 30 are a much bigger part of new cases than they were in April, when they represented just 15 percent of the cases, and people over 60 represented 4 percent. That’s “basically flipped,” the governor said, with those under 30 now responsible for 37 percent of the new infections, and people over 60 making up 20 percent.
Baker also urged young people, who are being infected at a higher rate recently, not to hold Halloween parties on Saturday.
“People really need to stop hosting big parties, and I say that as Halloween approaches,” Baker said. “I said many times over the course of the past 10 days that organized and structured, outdoor, trick-or-treating is a much safer way for people to celebrate Halloween than to gather indoors for an extended period of time — to share food, to play games, and to participate in what I would describe as close-contact activities between and among multiple generations.”