VANCOUVER -- With Thanksgiving just days away, many B.C. residents might be wondering how to celebrate the holiday safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For days now the province's top doctor has urged British Columbians to understand the holiday will need to look different this year and has encouraged virtual visits. 

"We have had to change our special celebrations and gatherings to keep the people we care about safe. This same approach is how we need to celebrate Thanksgiving this year," Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week.  

"Rather than travelling to see friends or hosting a large family dinner, make it small this year and plan to connect virtually instead."

For those who do plan to host a small gathering with their close contacts, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control recently released some tips for making sure the event is safe.

To begin with, gatherings should be local and amongst people already within a social group. As well, the BCCDC says people should try to celebrate outside if they can, or perhaps have part of the visit outdoors. 

Hosts should check in with their guests before the meal, making sure they are feeling well and haven't had recent contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19. 

Options for physical distancing should be available. For example, visits should be in larger rooms where there is more room for people to sit or stand farther apart. 

Hosts should also keep music low so guests don't need to talk loudly or shout and everyone should wash their hands before they eat. And, guests should respect physical distancing efforts and practice good hand hygiene, the BCCDC says.

Tips for a safe meal

For those preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, the BCCDC suggests having one person plate meals, rather than having a buffet. Or, if the meal is being served "family style," health officials suggest people serve themselves with their own, clean cutlery.

"Seat guests as far apart as possible, consider assigning seats based on household or social groups," the BCCDC's holiday guide says. 

"Discourage people from sharing anything that has been in their mouth, such as drinks."

Plates, utensils and napkins should be available for shared snacks or appetizers so everyone can have their own servings. 

"There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread from eating food prepared by others," the BCCDC says.

"However, you should avoid making food for others if you feel sick or are positive for COVID-19 or are self-isolating."

A full list of holiday hosting tips is available online.