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The "Safety Turducken"

Adapted from a blog written by Emily Oster | The original content can be found here.

While 2020 has been a wild ride with lots of unexpected ups and downs, we can always count on the holidays to bring some excitement. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also an added element of uncertainty when it comes to celebrating safely.

Check out this month’s blog for a three-layer framework created by Emily Oster about gathering safely, including information about the actual risks of contracting or spreading COVID-19, as well as ways to lower those risks.

What is the “Safety Turducken”

The “Safety Turducken” (a traditional turducken is a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken) is a three layer decision-making strategy that can help us understand how to mitigate risk, as well as get a better sense of the size of those risks, with an end goal of being able to celebrate the holidays without generating COVID-19 spikes and protecting our families and communities.

So, let’s dig into this framework by Emily Oster a bit more.

Layer 1: The Chicken – Limiting chance that the virus enters your holiday gathering

The “chicken” layer focuses on the risks of the virus getting to your gathering. At a basic level, the risk is:

Chance someone is infected (x) chance the infection gets through the barriers you put in place

While there is always a chance each person is infected, a chance that is largely related to the infection rate in their community or area, there are things you can do to lower that risk leading up to the holidays.

1. Quarantine/Lockdown. Limit your exposure by going out less, working from home when possible, and keeping kiddos home from playdates, daycare and in-person school.

2. Testing. If you are unable to quarantine or lockdown, testing may pick up some infections, helping to reduce the risk that you spread the virus at any gatherings.

3. Safe Travel. Traveling a long distance with stops can add risk; however, if you travel as safely as possible, washing your hands often and wearing a mask, you can help keep these risks relatively low, with the caveat that kids under 2 who are unable to wear masks may be more at risk than those who can wear masks.

Layer 2: The Duck – Limiting spread when you are together (relevant if layer 1 fails)

The “duck” layer focuses on limiting the spread of COVID-19 once you have gathered together, or:

Baseline risk of spread (x) how much lowered by mitigation

In this layer, you have more control. For example, if you are gathering outdoors for a hike or similar activity, there is a lower risk, especially when masks are added into the equation. However, if you are staying within a home or shared space for dinner, the risks are higher.

While it may be more difficult to mitigate these risks if you are staying in close quarters, it isn’t impossible. Try to limit physical interaction and avoid simple things, such as sharing glasses. Wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and wear masks if that is an option. While you can lower risks when meeting and gathering indoors together, meeting outside or meeting for a meal only but not staying together can have a bigger impact upon reducing your risk.

Layer 3: The Turkey – Preventing spread when you return (relevant if layers 1 and 2 fail)

The “turkey” layer is relevant if layers 1 and 2 fail and someone in your family returns from the holidays with the virus. While the first concern will be to get well, this layer focuses on how to prevent spread outside of your family into the larger surrounding community if you or a loved one were to return with a mild or asymptomatic case.

Upon your return, if you jump back into a normal routine, than the virus could potentially spread into the broader community, which can cause spikes associated with the holidays – something we all want to avoid! To help lower your risk of spread, quarantine and possible testing can make an impact.

A Final Word from the Author

“For some of you, you’ll do this and you’ll decide, basically, you cannot do Thanksgiving this year. It isn’t feasible, the risk isn’t worth it, or something else. This will be sad. Others will decide to go. Unless […] you’ve been able to really mitigate the risks, this will make you anxious.

In my view, it’s important to acknowledge this. Neither of these choices is likely to make you feel the kind of unbridled happiness that the holidays (usually) bring. So take a deep breath, make your Turducken, make a choice and try to move forward.”


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