HARRISBURG — On Thursday, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine urged Pennsylvanians to take COVID-19 and food safety precautions as they plan Thanksgiving celebrations during the holiday.

“The holidays are a time for togetherness, but this year, we must rethink what that looks like,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This Thanksgiving, choose to celebrate with the people in your household and virtually connect with your loved ones. If you plan to leave your home to celebrate the holiday, please follow the travel mitigation order, wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others. Weather-permitting, sit outside and enjoy the day. Do whatever you can to limit the spread of COVID-19 at this critical point of the pandemic.”

The travel mitigation order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. today and shall remain in effect until further notice.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping anyone who is not preparing food out of the kitchen for COVID-19 and food safety reasons. Use single-use options like salad dressing and condiment packets. Those who do attend a gathering should take their own food, drinks, cups, plates, and utensils.

As part of celebration preparations, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to join the more than 528,000 residents who have already downloaded and use COVID Alert PA, the free mobile app offered by the Department of Health that is designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and the exposure notification system developed by Apple and Google to help notify and give public health guidance to anyone who may have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Since the app only uses Bluetooth technology, it cannot and will not collect a user’s location data.

COVID Alert PA works in Pennsylvania, and several other locations in the United States including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Washington D.C., Wyoming, and some parts of California.

“We are seeing our highest case counts of the pandemic across Pennsylvania,” Dr. Levine said. “As I have said many times, the virus knows no boundaries, even between family members. It is imperative that everyone follows the safety measures laid out throughout the pandemic to protect themselves, loved ones, and all Pennsylvanians. In addition to COVID-19, practice food safety, especially when cooking the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.”

Further CDC cooking recommendations include thawing the turkey in the refrigerator in a container, leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water, or in the microwave following the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions. Never thaw a turkey by leaving it out on the counter. Remember that raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.

Cook the turkey thoroughly at an oven temperature of at least 325°F. It is not finished cooking until the food thermometer reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Also, cook stuffing separately from the turkey and put the stuffing in the turkey just before placing the turkey in the oven to ensure the stuffing is thoroughly cooked.

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