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Doctors say take precautions for a safer Thanksgiving during the pandemic

Doctors say holding gatherings outdoors is preferred and social distancing should still be followed and make sure to wear a mask.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This Thanksgiving, health officials are discouraging large family gatherings, urging people to keep holiday festivities small. The safest option, many health officials say, is being with people who live in the same household.

But not everyone will follow this guidance.

Thanksgiving is usually a time for families to gather around the table and share what they're grateful for, but this year is different.

"No gathering is totally safe unless it's just with the people under your own roof," said Joseph Khabbaza, a critical care medicine specialist with Cleveland Clinic

You may need to plan to cook less food because doctors are encouraging families to narrow down the guest list.

"Any gathering with family members has the risk of infecting any of them, and of course, the more vulnerable are more likely to end up very ill needing one of us in the ICU," Khabbaza said.

North Carolina health guidance encourages people to avoid contact with others outside their household for 14 days before the gathering.

If people do travel for the holiday, health officials recommend getting a COVID-19 screening test beforehand.

RELATED: State leaders urge precautionary COVID-19 tests ahead of Thanksgiving

"As we know, a screening test is by no means perfect, but it can catch some people who have the virus and don't have symptoms yet," said Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Doctors say holding gatherings outdoors is preferred and social distancing should still be followed and make sure to wear a mask.

Doctors said it may be tough to enforce these guidelines with family members but it's for their own safety.

"I don't think you'll ever regret being extra cautious in the middle of a pandemic," Khabbaza said. "The regret can only occur if a loved one gets very sick as a result of your gathering."

Of course, the safest way to gather with people outside your household this year is to do it virtually.

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