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Georgia’s Governor Asks Citizens to Reconsider Their Thanksgiving Plans This Week

Governor Brian Kemp tells citizens to “hunker down” and consider virtual gatherings or limiting holiday plans as Georgia experiences a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases

Photograph of Freedom Parkway from the Jackson Street Bridge looking toward downtown Atlanta
Freedom Parkway from the Jackson Street Bridge looking toward downtown Atlanta
Ryan Fleisher
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

In a week which normally sees tens of thousands of Georgians traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Brian Kemp tells citizens to “hunker down” and “stay vigilant” as the state experiences a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday evening, the governor posted a video message to Facebook in which he speaks of the biggest uptick in coronavirus cases since the summer, likely sparked by the cooler weather and people gathering indoors. Kemp urges citizens to continue wearing masks (but stops short of issuing a statewide mandate) and asks people to reconsider their options for the upcoming holidays.

“I know many are looking forward to gathering, but we are still facing down a once-in-a-century pandemic and we have to remain vigilant,” the governor says in the video. “If possible, consider options for gathering virtually or limiting your holiday gatherings to only a few people within the same household. If weather permits, gather outside to reduce the risk of exposure indoors.”

As we enter the holiday season, it is important that all Georgians remain vigilant and stop the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and get a flu shot. Together we can keep our state safe and healthy.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Sunday, November 22, 2020

The governor’s message comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended postponing any non-essential travel plans during the holiday season. CDC incident manager Doctor Henry Walke explained that people traveling from one part of the country to another provides the virus an opportunity to translocate and spread. Therefore, avoiding travel right now is the best way to protect oneself and others from contracting COVID-19. The guidance also warns against gathering with people who do not live in the same household, especially indoors.

The Georgia Department of Public Health echoed the advice of the CDC in its holiday statement, providing further guidance for citizens who insist on traveling and hosting or attending gatherings with people outside of their own household.

“COVID-19 spreads easily whether gatherings are large or small, putting families and friends at risk – especially individuals who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to stay home and celebrate with people in your own household. Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”

Amidst the financial challenges and uncertainties caused by the ongoing health crisis, restaurants across metro Atlanta offer fully prepared turkey dinners, side dishes, and desserts for takeout this year for groups and individuals staying put for Thanksgiving. And despite winter approaching and temperatures dropping, restaurants continue to increase outdoor seating options and winterize patios with fire pits, heating lamps, and blankets.

The cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody began offering special outdoor dining permits for restaurants and bars to utilize common areas, parking spaces, and other outside areas approved by the property owner for seating. In addition to its outdoor dining permit, City of Dunwoody now offers the Dunwoody CARES Al Fresco Grant reimbursement program, which assists restaurants and bars in purchasing or renting items, like tents, space heaters, lighting, and extension cords, by matching “qualifying expenses” for winterizing patios and outdoor seating areas.

Several cities, including Marietta, Decatur, Dunwoody, Canton, Smyrna, Powder Springs, Kennesaw, and Acworth, established entertainment districts with open container policies, allowing restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails and other alcoholic beverages.