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By Dr. Katelyn Jetelina November 21, 2022: Reprinted with permission

Happy Thanksgiving week! This is a friendly reminder that although there are a ton of circulating viruses, you and your family can have a healthy gathering while taking care of the larger community (i.e., overflowing hospitals). Here are a few key steps for this week:

If you’re sick today…

There’s a good chance you’ll be contagious on Thursday, regardless the type of virus. I would seriously consider, unfortunately, staying home. The infectious windows for the “triple threat” viruses are as follows:

  • Flu: Contagious for 5-7 days after start of symptoms.
  • RSV: Contagious for 3-8 days after start of symptoms. Some infants and people with weakened immune systems can spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.
  • COVID-19: We see strong evidence (herehere) that an Omicron infection lasts, on average, 8-10 days. Some people will be infectious for less, and some will be infectious for more. You won’t know unless you test.

Cadence testing (COVID-19)

Cadence testing will help catch false negatives for COVID-19. Antigen tests are not perfect, especially among asymptomatic people, but they can help. (You can expect the average antigen test to catch 44% to 70% of asymptomatic cases).

For cadence testing, it’s best to test tomorrow morning and again on Thursday morning before getting together.

  • Both negative: You’re good to go, especially if you have other measures in place.
  • Positive tomorrow: Bummer. But you could be at the end of your viral journey. Test again on Thursday, but be prepared to cancel.
  • Positive Thursday: Stay at home. Sorry.

Mask before event

Mask everywhere in public for the next four days leading up to the event. Masks work against all respiratory viruses. Be sure to wear a good one (like N95).


On Thursday, get that air moving. Buy a CO2 monitor if you want to ensure good ventilation.

Newborns at event

If you have a newborn (under 6 months), I would be a little more cautious this Thanksgiving. For example, wear your baby in a carrier so that people won’t ask to hold the baby. If you do let people hold them, don’t let them kiss the baby or ask them to wear a mask.

Sick after event?

If you’re over age 65 or high risk, get tested and get an antiviral as soon as possible. We have them for the flu and COVID-19.

For children under 2, sometimes it’s hard to know when and where to get care, and pediatric hospitals are under incredible stress right now. As a mom, I found this interview helpful on what signs to look for. When in doubt, call the pediatrician.

Bottom line

Have a wonderful and healthy Thanksgiving! See you on the flip side.

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