Family Health and Gatherings Amidst a Pandemic

‘Tis the season to gather, make memories with family & friends, and share great food. The rising cases of COVID-19 will make gatherings look a little different this year. It is important to take precautions and be safe while gathering this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great resource available to help you with tips to stay safe this year. When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pies! Did you know that Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day? It is a great opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history. Read on to learn more about staying safe this holiday season and learn more about your family health history.

Learning About Your Family’s History

Family gatherings are a great way to learn more about your heritage, learn about your family history, and any health issues previous family members have struggled with. Even if you are social distancing this year, find creative ways to collect this information.

When talking to your family, write down the names of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Discuss any conditions they have had and what the diagnosis was. Sharing chronic health conditions can be difficult, be sensitive to this information and make your goal clear, to prevent any health conditions from developing if you can avoid it.

Ask Questions

To find out more about the chronic conditions in your family, it’s important to ask a few questions. Make a list ahead of time before gathering virtually or in-person this Thanksgiving and start with some examples such as:

  1. Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes?
  2. Has your healthcare provider been concerned you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  3. Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  4. Approximately how old were you when these health conditions were diagnosed?
  5. What is your family’s ancestry? What countries or regions did your ancestors immigrate from?
  6. What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Start with these questions and go from there. This is a great start to learning more about your family’s health history. Make sure to record this information, share it with your extended family, and update as you gain more information.


Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day

Follow-up and Act

After learning about your family’s health history, then follow up with your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider about the next steps to take, future lab work, and what early screenings to consider. Time could be of the essence; some conditions will require specific screenings such as health histories that include:

  • Colon Cancer
  • Breast or Ovarian Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic Blood Pressure Issues
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s
  • Dementia
  • Osteoporosis

Staying Safe at Gatherings

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of November 23, 2020, there are approximately 58,425, 681 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As cases continue to increase rapidly across the world, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate virtually. If you gather, do so with people that live in your immediate household. Remember, you can collect your family’s health history virtually, stay safe, and still enjoy a nice feast! If you decide to host a gathering or attend a gathering elsewhere, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Host an outdoor meal, weather permitting, or make sure there is good ventilation in your gathering space
  • Limit the number of guests in your home, or ask how large the group will be
  • Set expectations with your guest as to the precautions you will be taking
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in your home
  • Limit the number of people preparing food, or pitch in and support a local restaurant and have your meal catered

Encourage your guest to wear a mask when the mealtime is over, hand washes, or use sanitizer often. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry. Wearing a mask and social distancing can ensure everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


This Thanksgiving, remember to be grateful for your health and family. Take advantage of a ZOOM gathering to connect with relatives in other cities, states, and countries! Start the conversation early and make it a yearly tradition to discuss any new health conditions before having your annual celebration.

Fact Check Sources:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Gathering During the Holidays

Family Health History Resource

Face Masks and Your Oxygen Levels

Face Masks

As we approach the fall and winter months, it is imperative we continue the use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 and follow the recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Misinformation about their effectiveness to slow the spread of COVID-19 as well as the misconception that their use deprives a wearer’s oxygen level will only lead to adverse impacts on individuals who follow inaccurate information.

An infodemic, that has recently accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, is an overabundance of information, some information is accurate, and some is not. This makes it difficult for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it the most.

Oxygen Levels

For most adults, wearing a face mask will not lead to the wearer developing hypoxemia. There are a few exceptions, including the use among very young children and people with certain pre-existing pulmonary or cardiac issues. Hypoxemia is a condition in which the supply of oxygen is inadequate for normal organ function and levels of oxygen are extremely low at the tissue level. Hypoxemia is determined by measuring the oxygen level in a blood sample, the artery, or it can be estimated by measuring the oxygen saturation of your blood by using a pulse oximeter.

Normal arterial oxygen is approximately 75 to 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). For healthy individuals, a pulse oximeter reading of 95 to 100 percent is normal however for those with chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an acceptable pulse oximeter reading is 88 to 92 percent. Pulse oximetry levels among COVID-19 patients vary as the condition evolves.

In a press release from earlier this year, CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield shared, “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus, particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Stay safe and stay informed with good sources of information. Research shows masks are effective in spreading COVID-19 and they will not cause oxygen deprivation.

Read more about this topic at

Our fact-check sources:

The CDCs Recommendations

Questions and Answers regarding Face Coverings

True Hypoxia and Hypoxemia Facts

Frontline Workers & The Truth About Masks