Be clear. Offer alternatives. Be honest. Don’t feel pressured to keep the conversation going.

These are the tips California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly offered on how to avoid gathering during Thanksgiving amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the state and country.

Ghaly also shared his own experiences having to tell his 7-year-old son “for the fifth or 10th time” that grandma isn’t coming over for dinner this year.

“And he said, ‘But dad, she’s part of our family, how does this make any sense? I thought you said, we just have to keep our mask on when we’re outside with people we don’t know,’” Ghaly shared during his weekly briefing. “I got a unique chance to explain to him exactly what I tell many, many people: That it’s not just about being careful around those who you don’t know, but because so many times asymptomatic spread happens, that people are pre-symptomatic, that we don’t know where others who we trust and believe in are mixing, that it’s important to say no, even when it comes to the closest people in our families.”

Ghaly said that it took some time, but his son eventually understood the importance of keeping gatherings small this year.

“He understands that part of our strategy is some short-term pain right now — declining an invitation for grandma’s really excellent cooking — for some confidence that the next 10 Thanksgivings will include her at our table in our house,” he said.

He explained that just saying no to decline an invitation for a gathering is the best way to be clear, and it closes the door for negotiations. He added that while it may come off as harsh, unkind or selfish, you don’t have to keep a conversation going.

By offering alternatives, you can acknowledge that while, you want to see loved ones, you want to keep everyone safe.

Ghaly said that making excuses can be tempting, but can often backfire, so it’s important to be honest and explain why you do not feel comfortable gathering.

Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary, offers tips on how to talk to loved ones about missing Thanksgiving gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Thanksgiving ‘do’s’

Ghaly also reiterated some Thanksgiving “do’s:”

  • Celebrate with members of your household.
  • Say “no” to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Think of ways to celebrate remotely.
  • Drop off Thanksgiving meals to older loved ones and those with medical conditions so they can safely stay home.
  • Take precautions to protect your loved ones.

Ghaly offered the tips as both state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans not to travel during the fall holiday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

California is also asking people entering or reentering the state to quarantine for two weeks, and travelers coming to the city of Los Angeles will be required to sign a form acknowledging the quarantine, or they will face a possible $500 fine.

By the numbers

As of Tuesday, California had a total of 1,131,851 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 18,779 deaths, according to data from the Los Angeles Times.

The seven-day average of cases is now at 12,532, Ghaly shared during his briefing. In addition, the 14-day positivity rate has increased by more than 50% since Nov. 10, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased more than 81% in the last two weeks.

This means that the state’s hospital system is stretched, as there are nearly 5,900 people hospitalized across the state.

Four more California counties in the state moved back to the state’s most restrictive purple tier, Ghaly announced Tuesday.

There are now 45 counties in the “widespread” tier of the reopening plan.

Ghaly detailed which counties moved back to the purple tier of the state’s reopening plan.


By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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