Choose safer options for Thanksgiving celebrations


Many of us have Thanksgiving traditions that span generations. In our family, my wife Joycelyn always makes a big pot of corn chowder using my mom’s recipe. These small rituals bring us comfort by reminding us of our timeless connections to those who came before us and those who will follow.

But this year is different. With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s hard to believe that gathering, as we usually do, might be unsafe. We’d all like to believe that COVID-19 is lurking “out there” somewhere, and won’t sneak into our homes along with auntie’s pumpkin pie.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many COVID-19 victims thought when they contracted the disease while at social gatherings with friends and family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that small social gatherings were an “important contributor” to the record number of COVID cases now surging across the continent. Closer to home, the outbreak on Lanai was traced directly to social gatherings. In what seemed like overnight, our sister island went from zero COVID cases to more than 100.

Thankfully, with the hard work and determination of the Lanai community, medical professionals, first responders and government partners, the outbreak on Lanai has been contained. But, let’s not make the same mistake again.

I encourage everyone to refrain from attending multiple Thanksgiving gatherings this year. If you do decide to attend a celebration outside of your household, then try to keep the gatherings small.

Everyone who gathers should wear a face mask unless eating or drinking. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet, preferably 10 feet, from others. Wash your hands thoroughly and often and don’t touch your face. Lucky we live Hawaii! Choose the safer option of celebrating outside in the fresh air.

Please take special care of your beloved kupuna. Instead of visiting, consider making a phone call, or scheduling an online video conference. If you do visit, arrive early in the day, before you’ve seen any other people. Wear a mask, keep your distance, and swap hugs and kisses for a shaka from afar. You can’t be too careful with our elders.

Other CDC suggestions for a safer Thanksgiving dinner include:

• Designate one person, wearing a mask, to serve the food.

• Use disposable, single-use plates or plastic utensils.

• While not “local style,” you may suggest guests bring their own food to minimize close contact or cross-contamination.

• Require everyone to wear a mask, except while eating or drinking.

• Practice “safe six” at all times . . . keep at least 6 feet away from others.

• Regularly clean and sanitize commonly used spaces or objects.

• Shop early for your groceries to avoid crowded stores.

I know many of us are suffering from COVID fatigue. We’re tired of the pandemic, exhausted from constant warnings, and worried about what tomorrow may bring. 

But remember, island people have a secret advantage: we understand and respect our interdependence. To quote a popular bumper sticker, “This ain’t the Mainland.” Together, we can overcome anything by supporting one another.

Thanks to your cooperation and vigilance, Maui County has one of the lowest COVID infection rates in the entire nation. That’s allowed us to begin our economic recovery so our people can get back to work. With a vaccine in view, we can see a brighter tomorrow, but we can’t let our guard down. Not yet. We must stay the course for now.

Joycelyn and I wish you and yours much health and happiness this holiday season. Like you, we look forward to future Thanksgiving celebrations that will include corn chowder, enjoyed together, in-person, without masks, and an extra serving of aloha.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month.


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