Thanksgiving COVID protocol?
November 12, 2021 4:46 AM   Subscribe

My niece (vaccinated) and her husband (unvaccinated) tested positive for COVID yesterday. She has symptoms; he is currently asymptomatic. They have two young unvaccinated kids who tested negative. Not sure how this impacts thanksgiving.

My niece says that she was told to isolate for 10 days from when she first had symptoms (which was Sunday; but she tested negative on Tuesday then positive yesterday). My reading of the guidelines from the CDC is that isolation should be ten days from the positive test. Either way you count, she's done isolating prior to Thanksgiving. Her parents (vaccinated) have been in close contact, but are currently testing negative.

We were planning to have thanksgiving at our house this year. Approximately 20 people, only two unvaccinated adults (one who now has COVID; one who had it several months ago). 2 kids too young for vaccination. The only real high risk person is my dad, who is 87, and is double vaccinated but not boosted.

These positive tests makes me want to cancel the whole thing, but for reasons I am trying to avoid that. I feel like the timing really sucks - any closer to Thanksgiving and they would still be isolating; any further away and I'd feel comfortable that they weren't contagious. As it is I feel kinda paralyzed about deciding what to do.

I do have enough home tests to test everyone when they get here. I could test everyone. I could test the non-vaccinated people (or disinvite them?) The unvaccinated people will not mask.

I can't tell if it's decision fatigue, or anger, or what, but I'm feeling paralyzed about making a decision here. I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to best approach this to keep everyone safe.
posted by dpx.mfx to Human Relations (24 answers total)
Is there any way to persuade your niece and her husband not to come?
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:58 AM on November 12 [9 favorites]

Your 87 year old dad is still at high risk, even vaccinated. I would encourage him to get his booster as soon as possible. Booster or no, I would not allow unvaccinated adults to be around him, regardless of whether they've had COVID or not. If they love your dad and want to see him, they'll get vaccinated.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:02 AM on November 12 [48 favorites]

Yeah, sorry you have to be the one enforcing these things, but it seems critically irresponsible to allow unvaxxed adults to come to this event. If it's too hard to disinvite those people, you really should cancel entirely. (You might be able to cancel the large event and instead host a smaller event with just a few people.)

If you hosted this and your dad got Covid and died, think how you'd feel, and the damage it would do between you and the family members who wouldn't protect him. We are not "back to normal" yet and old rules of hospitality do not apply to people who ignore public health recommendations.
posted by rikschell at 5:30 AM on November 12 [33 favorites]

The unvaccinated people will not mask.

Don't invite them. Unvaccinated adults probably shouldn't attend, especially if they refuse to mask. And maybe people with unvaccinated kids shouldn't either. We already know that kids are germ factories and can spread COVID.

One additional thought is that although vaccinated people are much less likely to spread COVID, the overall risk isn't 0 even if someone is vaccinated. Having 20 people around elderly folks at a time when the virus is still running rampant might not be a good idea, no matter how many are vaccinated. I would do your best to cut down on the number of attendees. If you can't do that, limit how much time you spend together, make sure everyone wears masks when they're not eating, and ensure that areas are well ventilated.

If this all sounds like a pain, you could split the holiday visits into a very small dinner with you and your parents, then host everyone else at a different time.
posted by fight or flight at 5:51 AM on November 12 [12 favorites]

Oh, shoot, sorry all, we have bedbugs.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:53 AM on November 12 [31 favorites]

Without getting into details of who and when, it's clear that your local transmission levels are far too high for this gathering.

That's really all you need to say.
posted by Dashy at 5:56 AM on November 12 [17 favorites]

The unvaccinated kids will be quarantining until after Thanksgiving unless they are not in contact with their parents for the next two weeks. This family cannot safely attend Thanksgiving.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:18 AM on November 12 [29 favorites]

In this specific scenario, it doesn't sound like the unvaccinated adults are the biggest risk. It actually sounds like they're the least likely to spread COVID, since they both have recently had it. And, as your niece's case shows, people who are unvaccinated can still get it. The people you're probably most worried about are the people who had close contact with your niece and her husband who have tested negative so far - their kids and her parents. What if they do end up getting it and are still contagious by Thanksgiving?

Testing or disinviting only the unvaccinated people doesn't really make sense, since that leaves out the niece's parents, who have known recent exposure, and unnecessarily eliminates some low-risk people. Testing everyone when they get there seems like a good idea, and you could encourage people to get tested on their own shortly before the event for added safety. The kids of the couple with COVID probably shouldn't be there unless they get a professionally-administered negative test before they leave home.

Cancelling the event entirely also makes sense. Since your dad is the one at most risk, maybe you should be guided by his wishes. You don't necessarily want to leave it up to him to decide, but you could ask yourself whether he generally prioritizes protecting himself over spending time with family or vice versa. If you think the risk would feel worth it to him, then maybe you should go ahead with it.
posted by Redstart at 6:24 AM on November 12 [7 favorites]

We just had to quarantine after an exposure to my too-young-to-be-vaxxed child. The current sick people should not be of concern (and no longer contangious) by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

What you should be concerned about is the 2 young, currently negative, unvaccinated kids. They need to do a 14-day quarantine from the last day of exposure... so really, that 14 days needs to start the day the parents isolation ends. Unless they're living elsewhere while the parents are sick. That 14 day window can be shorted to a 7-day time period WITH a negative test 5-7 days AFTER the last day of exposure.

There is just enough time for the young kids to do the 7 day quarantine with ngative test before Thanksgiving. I would find a good reference sheet on these dates/recommendations (I live in Philly, and they have a good picto-graphic). Require the kids have negative covid tests within 24-48 hours of Thanksgiving. At that point, they'd probably be lower risk than other guests since they'll have been isolating for like 3 weeks.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:44 AM on November 12 [13 favorites]

I think a lot of people are thinking about this with some wrong assumptions.

First, what are the current case rates in your area? Have you plugged the event into I plugged in the total us odds and it says that each person has a .5% chance of having covid during the event. Multiplied by 20, that's a 10% chance that someone has covid if everyone were unvaccinated.

Second, the people that just had it are basically walking, virus-killing machines. They have active antibodies, and will have long eliminated the virus from their system.

Third, over a long enough period of time, masking doesn't help very much. You're going to take off masks to eat anyway. If 20 people are in a living room, everyone will be sharing air unless they are all wearing sealed N95s. Wearing a simple cloth mask will slow the "throw" of your germs, but eventually they will be in the air.

Last, people that chose to be unvaccinated are... choosing to be unvaccinated. They are taking that risk. You can't protect people from themselves. I personally think this base rate of covid is... the new normal. As a vaccinated and boostered person, I'm planning to start making decisions about the present, that I want to cascade into the future. And that means, now that everyone has access and education to vaccines, I will not be masking or distancing in private settings unless that choice impacts the comfort of those around me. ...But it helps I'm in the most vaccinated city in the US.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:46 AM on November 12 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

BBQT - that makes sense about the viral load of the currently sick people. And you're right about those choosing to be unvaccinated - I frankly don't care if THEY get sick, I just don't want them to get my dad or the kiddos sick. The microcovid site is helpful.

I talked to the parents of the unvaccinated because they are too young kids, and they are comfortable holding the event if we test everyone the morning of. Dad is getting boosted today (so one day short of the two week full effect). We're considering spreading out across two houses (several of us live on the same street). This would keep the "pods" together and we can transfer food and video across.

Man, i'm tired of navigating this shit.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:11 AM on November 12 [9 favorites]

The 87 year old should get a booster today - regardless of this whole situation. Is he open to doing that? If you have influence on anyone's vaccine choices you may want to focus on the folks who are over 60 and encouraging boosters for them.

If I was hosting a gathering I would require that all who attend be vaccinated and leave it at that. Kids are eligible now. Are these kids babies?
posted by latkes at 7:12 AM on November 12 [2 favorites]

From my understanding, your niece started showing symptoms on Sunday Nov 7. So we start counting day 1 of isolation as Monday November 8, her last day would be the 18th and she could “re-enter” the world on Nov 19th.

Unless your niece has been completely isolated from the kids starting Tuesday, they won’t be out of their quarantine until after thanksgiving. If they are in constant contact with their mom, they should remain home and their 14 days would start with the last contact, so November 18th the nieces last day of isolation. That would mean the kids are quarantined through December 2nd and cannot attend thanksgiving. (There are some “early releases” from quarantine with testing, but I would not recommend them in order to attend an event with unvaxxed and immunocompromised people).

The other unvaxxed adults should not attend Thanksgiving with ~20 people unless they will go get the J&J vaccine today. If the unvaxxed kids are the ones in the COVID household, they should not attend either.

If your father is eligible for a booster it would be great for him to go get one today or ASAP. If that’s not possible, don’t stress about it.

There’s mixed opinions on the utility of rapid testing asymptomatic people. You’re more likely to get a false positive which can then set off a whole string of issues with isolation requirements. If you’re willing to give people an out on being vaccinated, I would want them to get a PCR test no more than 48hrs before the Thanksgiving get together. Personally? I would not give that option but you do you.

This is also a great time to remind people to get their flu shots for the year as well.

Source: former contact tracer and supervisor with a large county in NC and I have an MPH. Caveat: I left COVID work in the summer so I won’t pretend that I’ve been sticking as close to the updates from the CDC since then.

Edit: I use CDC guidelines as I am in the US and you mention thanksgiving and I believe Canadian thanksgiving has already happened for 2021
posted by raccoon409 at 7:43 AM on November 12 [5 favorites]

Adults who choose to be unvaccinated are choosing to increase the risk of illness and death to everyone they come in contact with. Period. Adults who choose to be unvaccinated are sociopaths, and in your situation I would cut off all contact with your niece and her husband.
posted by sriracha at 7:56 AM on November 12 [13 favorites]

Unvaccinated adults and anyone who lives with them get uninvited (from your life, not just Thanksgiving, honestly), regardless of how many times they've had COVID so far.

I would not bank a lot of faith in testing unless everyone being tested also quarantines in advance so the test results have some chance of being accurate. I just think you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it care about other people and so testing is meaningless.

I think the pods should stay in their pods, personally. Regrets aren't going to comfort you if someone gets your dad sick.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:00 AM on November 12 [7 favorites]

My personal decision making around COVID situations has centred around considering the benefits (mental health, etc.) of something versus the risk (getiigg covid, etc.). With the addition of considering the worst case scenario and working through how I felt about that emotionally.

As an accendotdal example, my family gathered for Thanksgiving this year (Canadian). All 14 adults were vaccinated but the three kids under 5 were not. An adult family member who is not vaccinated considered attending, but my line in the sand is that I will not expose my toddler to unvaccinated adults period. They did not end up attending but I would have not gone had they been there. 2 of the adults were also immunocompromised seniors who have not yet had boosters. If anyone had recently had covid, my family would not have attended and would have encouraged the event to be cancelled to protect the kids and grandparents in my family.
posted by snowysoul at 8:46 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]

My BF has cancer and is undergoing Chemo, He has been vaccinated and has had his booster. He had his flu shot too, Our social circle and his siblings and their spouses have been vaccinated. But when we planned a Birthday gathering for him and one of his siblings came up sick..we waited a few days. They got tested, (Negative) but their spouse got sick, so we cancelled and moved the gathering to a later time, I am glad we did because his other sibling and a friend who had contact with the first sibling also came down sick. We are all pretty sure it’s just a cold.. but even that is dangerous for my BF and it would be for any 87 year old.

It is just not worth the risk.
posted by ReiFlinx at 8:54 AM on November 12

I would cancel.

If it helps, I have a story about a non-politically charged Thanksgiving outbreak from Thanksgiving 2019. My husband, his parents, some aunts and uncles and family friends all gathered at our sister in law's house for Thanksgiving. His sister, brother in law and toddler daughter had all gone down for the count with norovirus a bit before the visit, but seemed to be well in the clear by the time Thanksgiving dinner and guests were arriving.

Reader - they were not in the clear. Everybody who attended got norovirus. It's a great story for the fam, because everybody survived, but it was very miserable and I am sure we would have all happily cancelled if we'd known it was going to go that way.

If your family doesn't see it that way, I am very sorry. But the consequences of a Covid outbreak from the situation you describe absolutely don't seem worth it at all, and I am just so sorry and sad that this particular disease has been so politicized that people can't use common sense anymore. If it were the flu, or norovirus, or some not-as-deadly but obviously-miserable disease I think everyone would agree to stay home and not risk it, right?
posted by pazazygeek at 11:57 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]

Ah, I missed the part about the children. That does change things, unfortunately. They need to be tested 5 days after last possible contact with contagion, which is 10 days from yesterday, so unfortunately, it is probably not safe to have them over.
posted by namesarehard at 12:07 PM on November 12

Man, i'm tired of navigating this shit.
O.P., please cancel for this reason. Holiday gatherings are stressful enough; there’s no reason to keep this burden on your shoulders. Throw off the chains of expectation, call it off, and pour yourself a glass of wine.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:20 PM on November 12 [5 favorites]

This may be more commiseration than advice but your fatigue and paralysis is very relatable. Seems likely we’re doing an immediate-family only holiday (again) this year.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:52 PM on November 12

Facing a similar situation this year I have just canceled Thanksgiving at my house as this seems most likely to cause the fewest fights among suddenly disinvited family members - all the enmity will be directed toward me and they will eventually get over it.
posted by flowergrrrl at 3:21 PM on November 12 [2 favorites]

Data point: I'm vaccinated and got COVID and gave it to my vaccinated friend before I was symptomatic (beyond a sneeze or two that felt like my chronic allergies). It's been a couple months. I'm fully recovered. But my friend never really fully recovered, and is now sick enough that they can't reliably keep food down and have been in and out of hospital for other gnarly symptoms requiring various specialists.

Being vaccinated is critical, but it is not a guarantee.
posted by cnidaria at 12:13 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]

The risk is from the sheer number of people, not that two of them have immune system stimulation from whole virus exposure instead of mRNA. In between booster shots and pre-testing everyone you're making a 20 person gathering as safe as it's going to be. And if you're in a low incidence area it may not get any safer.

In addition to knowing the baseline rate in your area, what does your father think? If he's the sort of person who's going to an occasional live theater show or eating indoor at restaurants the meal you describe is not really impacting his overall risk. I don't think I'd feel comfortable with that big a crowd but he's not getting younger, so on some level the alternative to accepting risks like this may be "never be in a room with more than 5 people the rest of my life" and that may not be his preference.
posted by mark k at 1:56 PM on November 13

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