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North Texas health experts weigh in on how to keep Thanksgiving safe

Health experts share what you need to know from testing to quarantining, and virtual celebrations.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Many families across the country are asking the same question: Is it worth it?

Thanksgiving is about a week away and COVID-19 cases are spiking in all 50 states. 

“It's very hard to assess risk, and there are no guarantees,” Dr. Jasmin Tiro, a behavioral science professor at UT Southwestern said. “The easiest way to keep everyone safe is to stay with what we now call our bubble.” 

Tiro said anyone traveling should quarantine 14 days beforehand, but that needed to start last week. 

Testing is a good idea too, but Tiro pointed out a negative today could be positive tomorrow, because the virus takes time to incubate. Being infected on a plane trip may mean a person becomes infectious two or three days later, even if they test negative just before boarding. 

Taking temperatures doesn’t mean much either -- 40% of people don’t have symptoms. 

Tiro said families should communicate about what behaviors they’ve been doing and be honest with each other.

“You can change your mind on what makes you feel safe, and you can communicate that to your friends and family members,” said Tiro.

A Georgia Tech tool shows any gathering of 15 people in Tarrant or Dallas counties has a 30% chance of someone being positive.

Tuesday, Tarrant County Public Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja gave a blunt warning.

“My fear is that by Christmas you’re going to have lots of family members that have succumbed to COVID,” Taneja said. “Let’s have a safe Thanksgiving this year, so that we can have full seats next year.” 

RELATED: Tarrant County issues public health warning after COVID-19 hospitalizations surpass 15% mark

Tiro recommends dinner outside, people bringing their own food or, better yet, just using Zoom, which is allowing people to have unlimited time on calls for the holiday. 

“Checking in with each other is really important,” she said. “We need those connections checking in with each other doesn't necessarily mean seeing each other face to face.”

She’s sending her family and friends to the CDC’s site, which also encourages holiday shopping online and avoiding races or parades. 

“We all have to do our part to protect each other, and we have to come together,” said Tiro.

The way people answer “is it worth it” will decide if the next holiday is a time of celebration or sadness.