LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Thanksgiving will be celebrated today amid calls by officials to remain home and avoid gatherings in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Celebrate at home with those you live with,'' Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted. “It's the safest choice.''
Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A household is defined as anyone who living and sharing common spaces in your housing unit.
People not currently living in your housing unit, such as college students returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings bringing together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk, according to the CDC.
People with or exposed to COVID-19 should not attend in-person holiday gatherings, along with those with symptoms, is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days or is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Suggestions from the CDC to lower the chances of transmitting the virus including having Thanksgiving dinner outdoors. If dining indoors, open windows and doors, if possible, to bring in fresh air, if possible, and using a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window which will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
Other suggestions include limiting the number of people in food preparation areas, having guests bring their own food and drink and if sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.
One alternative suggested by the city government to a large in-person gathering is a Thanksgiving Zoom call with friends and family. The video conferencing company is lifting its 40-minute limit for all meetings globally from 9 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday.
Some are heeding the call to remain home. The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that 3.86 million Southern California residents will be traveling for the holiday weekend, a 13% drop from last year.
The Transportation Security Administration screened 1,070,967 people at checkpoints nationwide Wednesday, the highest volume since March 16 and just the fourth time the daily total topped 1 million since that date, according to Lisa Farbstein, a TSA public affairs specialist.
There were 2,602,631 people screened on Thanksgiving eve in 2019.
The coronavirus pandemic is also forcing organizers of two Southland Thanksgiving traditions, road races and large feedings of the homeless and poor, to either cancel events or alter them.
The Rose Bowl Turkey Trot will be held on a virtual basis through 8 p.m. Friday night with all registered participants running or walking at a place of their own choosing and use the Race Joy app to track their official time and automatically send in their finish time.
Organizers highly encourage participants to complete the route around the 5-kilometer Rose Bowl Loop recreational path surrounding the Rose Bowl Stadium and Brookside Golf course.
All entry fees for will be fully tax-deductible and go directly to the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation's America's Stadium Needs America Campaign. The shortening of the college football season, cancellation of the Rose Bowl's concerts and hundreds of minor events has left the stadium facing a potential revenue shortfall in excess of $15 million, according to stadium officials.
The stadium relies on major and minor event revenues to fund capital improvements, support preventative maintenance and advance stadium operations in a 98-year old venue whose future is at risk because of the shortfall, stadium officials said.
The Midnight Mission will not be holding its traditional Thanksgiving brunch, where last year, nearly 2,500 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children were fed, according to Georgia Berkovich, its director of public affairs.
Instead, it will be serving three meals on Thursday as it does every day. The Midnight Mission serves thousands of “take-out'' meals each day, Berkovich said.
However, both The Laugh Factory and Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation will continue their traditional Thanksgiving events with alterations because of the pandemic.
The Laugh Factory will host its 40th annual free Thanksgiving Dinner from 1-5 p.m. outside the Hollywood club rather than inside, with all meals packaged to go.
Tiffany Haddish, Dane Cook and Tim Allen are among the comedians scheduled to participate.
“We received an overwhelming number of inquiries about how we would proceed due to COVID-19, and after consulting with our city officials, our team and comedians, we came to the conclusion that spending the holiday alone is no laughing matter and so we all decided to move forward with this yearly tradition,'' Laugh Factory founder and CEO Jamie Masada said.
Everyone attending is asked to observe all CDC and public health safety guidelines including social distancing and wearing masks. The Laugh Factory will provide a mask to anyone who doesn't have one, Masada said.
Masada encourages everyone to spread the word about the event.
“Please invite anyone you may know who is alone for the holiday to get a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and some comedy that will be food for the soul,'' Masada said. “We believe laughter is healing and we need laughter now more than ever.''
The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation will be feeding more than 400 people impacted by the foster care system as its annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner which will be shifted to a “Grab 'n' Go'' format at the First AME Church of Los Angeles.
The foundation will be serving a record amount of people who have registered, nearly four times what it has served at past Thanksgiving events traditionally held inside Allen House, which is owned by the First AME Church of Los Angeles.
“There was never a thought of canceling this event because caring is not in quarantine'' said Jackie Broxton, the executive director of the foundation which provides services and support to foster youth while in care and after they “age out'' of the system.
“The community we serve, which already faces uphill challenges, has been impacted in new and different ways, but we are making sure enjoying a Thanksgiving meal will not be one of them.''
Photos: Getty Images