FARGO — As people get ready to celebrate with their families this Thanksgiving, health experts say this year will be far from traditional.

"People are indoors more often, and closer (in) contact, and thinking about those holidays where we're close together, (you should) think outside the box," said Heidi Olson-Fitzgerald, a physician assistant with Sanford Health.

For travelers, the American Automobile Association is predicting fewer cars will be on the highway, as they're expecting a 4 percent, or an over 2-million car, drop from last year.

Dr. Richard Vetter, the chief medical officer at Essentia Health West, said because of rising cases in the region, even traveling in-state is a risk.

"Right now, North Dakota is kind of one of the hot spots, and so traveling in or outside of our area is not recommended for that reason," he said.

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However, if you are planning on gathering this year, Vetter said to keep space in mind when figuring out how many can come over, in line with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

"If you're in a small apartment, as an example, then to be able to maintain a 6-foot distance is gonna reduce your number (of people), whereas if you're holding something in a large banquet hall, you can spread out a little bit easier," he said.

Brenton Nesemeier, a field epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health, said keeping gatherings under 10 people is ideal, but if you can't set a limit, he suggests having the holiday meal sometime down the road.

"It all just depends on where we are at in the pandemic," he said. "If we haven't improved, then maybe push it back a month."

Nesemeier said another option would be getting a few takeout meals and leaving it at your family members' doorsteps, then distancing while celebrating.

While that method may take away from the traditional Thanksgiving feeling, Nesemeier said it's a short-term sacrifice for a long-term holiday.

"We want everyone to be able to celebrate future Thanksgivings with their loved ones," he said.

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