Thanksgiving is around the corner, but with COVID-19 cases spiking locally and throughout the U.S., the way we celebrate will need to be different so it’s safer. Sacramento County Public Health
and Environmental Management
have provided Holiday Guidance to take part in the holiday while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19, and as always, keeping food safety in mind, too.
Many of the ways we celebrate the holidays can be high risk for COVID-19 exposure, but you can lower your risk for you and your loved ones. Before participating in an activity, ask yourself:
- Will there be crowds where you can’t maintain 6 feet separation?
- If others aren’t wearing face coverings, are you willing to leave to reduce exposure risk?
- Will you be outdoors so that air is able to circulate?
- Do you have increased health risk, or live with or visit others who are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications? If so, you should avoid gatherings.
- Are you not feeling well – headache, feeling a bit off? It may be mild COVID-19 symptoms and you should reschedule to protect others.
Private gatherings are one of the biggest reasons there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases. At private gatherings, you are with people you know but what you don’t know is if you, your friends and loved ones are positive for COVID-19. During private gatherings, you can be tempted to let your guard down. We know there are actions you can take to make it safer – wear a face covering, keep your distance of 6 feet, bundle up and meet outdoors for two hours or less with no more than three households – preferably with your regular social “bubble.”
If you participated in higher risk activities such as gathering without social distancing, take extra precautions for 14 days to protect others – stay home, avoid interaction with those who are at risk of severe COVID-19 illness and get tested for COVID-19. If you do test positive, immediately contact the host or those you interacted with so they can take precautions and get tested.
The State issued a non-essential travel advisory on Nov. 13
that encourages staying home or in your region and avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries to reduce the risk of virus transmission. People arriving in California from other states or countries, including returning California residents, should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival and limit interactions to immediate household.
Are you going out to shop? Whether it’s grocery or gift shopping, why not plan it out! Make a list, go mid-week, early in the day or later in the evening and well before the holiday to avoid the crowds – better yet, order curbside pick-up. While shopping, always wear a face covering, avoid touching your face and use hand sanitizer or wash hands often.
The safest way to celebrate the holidays is to be creative in finding alternatives to gathering or at least create safer gatherings. Air hugs, smaller gatherings, make a special event with those in your household preparing traditional family recipes, deliver meals to those at higher risk, or have a dinner or play games virtually with friends and family.
There are ways to prepare your holiday meal that lowers the risk of spreading COVID-19 while practicing food safety. Encourage everyone to wash their hands before and after preparing, serving and eating food. Wear a face covering while preparing or serving food and instead of buffet style, have one person serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils. Also, consider using disposable food containers, cups, plates and utensils.
Additional food safety guidance include using proper cooking and holding temperatures and being careful not to cross-contaminate surfaces and other foods. Raw meats, poultry and vegetables should be handled properly when preparing and cooking to help prevent foodborne illness. It’s also important to store leftovers correctly. Another must is frequent hand-washing and thoroughly cleaning surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw meats – especially poultry.
To keep you and your loved ones safe while preparing a turkey, be aware of five important safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, cooking to the proper temperature and handling of leftovers.
Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator or submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
After working with raw poultry, wash hands, utensils and work surfaces with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before touching other foods. It is not recommended to wash your turkey as the bacteria can spread up to three feet away.
For safety, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish. If you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer with a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F and place turkey breast-side up on a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint - must reach 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes. Remove all stuffing from the cavity and carve the meat.
Perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours and be sure to reheat all your leftovers to a minimum of 165°F.