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How can I safely host or attend Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations?

Last Updated: 11/18/2020

Given the current surge in COVID-19 cases, everyone should only celebrate Thanksgiving with members of their household. Indoor gatherings are particularly dangerous places for COVID-19 to spread.

Effective November 17th, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 individuals, and effective November 23rd, outdoor gatherings are limited to 150 individuals. There are exceptions for wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, religious activities, political activities, and performance venues.

If you do gather with other households,

  • Keep Thanksgiving plans as small as possible. The smaller the gathering is, the less likely it is that someone is infected and putting loved ones at risk.
  • Limit the number of attendees to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others outside their household.
  • Require guests to wear masks when not eating, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Indoor gatherings pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible.
  • If you do host indoors, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
  • Provide attendees with supplies to help everyone stay healthy, including extra masks, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.
  • Remind attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils. Use single-use options or identify one person to serve shareable items like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don't have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days, are showing COVID-19 symptoms, or recently travelled to an area or a state with high COVID-19 infection rates.

To save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19:

For more guidance on celebrations, see the CDC's page on COVID-19 and holidays.

College Students

Students going home for the holidays are at risk of bringing COVID-19 infection with them, especially if there is an outbreak at their college or university. Even if they are asymptomatic (have no symptoms), students could unknowingly transmit the virus to vulnerable and at-risk individuals and contribute to widespread community transmission.

To protect your loved ones, the Department of Health has released guidance for students travelling home for the holidays.

Before Going Home

  • Students should quarantine away from their families for 14 days before interacting with family members.
  • Students who have family members at high risk of complications from COVID-19 infection (over 60 or with chronic medical conditions) should complete their quarantine somewhere other than in the same household with those high-risk family members.
  • Students should consider getting tested before leaving campus and 5-7 days after any potentially high risk activity (e.g., attendance at a party or gathering). Complete a 14-day quarantine even if the test(s) is (are) negative, as symptoms may occur at any time within that period.
  • If a student tests positive, they should have an isolation plan. The isolation period can generally end 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, and with improvement of other symptoms. If a person tests positive and has no symptoms, they should stay home for 10 days.
  • Anyone with symptoms or a positive test should avoid traveling home if possible.
  • Download the COVID Alert NJ app on your cell phone. The app is free and available for Apple and Android phones.
  • Get a flu shot before you travel.

For more on how to protect yourself and your loved ones during the holidays, see the Department of Health's guidance for students travelling home for the holidays.

Find a testing center near you by visiting

In addition, the Governors of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are urging colleges and universities to make COVID testing available to all residential students before they leave for Thanksgiving break.

Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities

In addition, the Department of Health strongly recommends against families taking residents out of long-term care facilities for holiday celebration events or gatherings. Residents of long-term care facilities are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Bringing your loved ones home could put them at risk.

Instead of family visits outside of the facility, the Department recommends visitation outdoors, or possibly indoors in facilities that meet the requirements for indoor visitation.

In addition, the Department of Health will provide guidance to long-term care facilities and require the development of plans for holiday visits and gatherings. Residents that leave their long-term care facilities for family celebrations must be quarantined upon their return to the facility.

Prior to taking a resident out of a long-term care facility, family members should contact the facility's administration to discuss specific safety policies and procedures.

For more information, refer to the Department of Health's Guidance for Holiday Visitation.

Source: DOH Commissioner Remarks (11/16/20)