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Fredericksburg-area health officials discourage large gatherings on turkey day

Fredericksburg-area health officials discourage large gatherings on turkey day


With COVID–19 cases rising locally, public-health officials are urging residents to exercise caution this Thanksgiving and avoid activities that pose the highest risk for spreading the virus to loved ones.

“We are strongly discouraging multiple households from gathering indoors this Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, acting director of the Rappahannock Area Health District. “We instead recommend people find creative ways to celebrate safely, either through enjoying turkey together over Zoom, dropping off food to family members or moving celebrations outside with masks and distancing measures in place.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list large indoor gatherings, featuring potlucks or buffets with people from outside their household, as one of the highest-risk activities for the holiday. Other activities in the same category include places with large crowds such as stores, parades, running events and sports; contact with anyone who is sick or may have been exposed to COVID-19; and consuming alcohol, which leads to altered judgment and riskier behaviors, according to the CDC and the Public Health Communications Collaborative.

The safest observances during the pandemic are those shared among people in their own households, the CDC states. People are encouraged to host a virtual dinner and share recipes, if not the actual meal, with family and friends and to put up favorite decorations and share those online.

Those who are gathering are encouraged to keep the group small and local, states the Public Health Communications Collaborative. It recommends that people stay outside if possible or ensure proper ventilation inside; wear masks and practice social distancing; and wash hands or use sanitizer regularly, especially before eating.

Public-health officials advocate that people who plan to gather with others on Thanksgiving get tested for COVID-19 before the holiday—and afterwards, if there’s concern about exposure. The local health district is offering the following free testing events:

  • Nov. 23: 4–7 p.m. at Stafford Hospital
  • Nov. 30, 1–4 p.m. at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center
  • Dec. 2, 4–7 p.m. at Stafford Hospital
  • Dec. 4, 1:30–4:30 p.m. at Dixon Park in Fredericksburg
  • Dec. 5: 9 a.m. to noon at King George Elementary
  • Dec. 7, 1–4 p.m. at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center
  • Dec. 9, 4–7 p.m. at Stafford Hospital
  • Dec. 11, 1:30–4:30 p.m. at Dixon Park in Fredericksburg

Tests are available to anyone age 16 and over at no cost, and no prescription or health insurance information is required. PCR tests, in which the nasal cavity is swabbed, are used at all events, and results are available within about three days.

All events will be drive-thru, and individuals seeking testing should be seated near a window. All those who attend must wear a cloth face covering.

Public-health officials stress that getting tested is only one moment in time, and even those who receive negative results could go on to develop COVID-19 in the days after a test, said spokesperson Allison Balmes–John.

Those who want to get tested after Thanksgiving should wait five to seven days after a potential exposure for the most accurate results, she said.

Preregistration is preferred but not required, and participants can register online at or by calling 540/899-4797.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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