Yes, Even Your Outdoor Socially Distanced Thanksgiving Party Is Banned

The city has put the kibosh on all holiday celebrations with anyone outside your household. Well, except on Zoom.

friends enjoying an outdoor thanksgiving, which you can't really do in Philadelphia thanks to new COVID restriction

Friends enjoying an outdoor Thanksgiving, which you can’t really do in Philadelphia thanks to new COVID restrictions. (Getty Images)

Take a look at the people in this photo. See how they’re all enjoying their outdoor Thanksgiving? Great food. Great friends. Some wine. Some beer. It all looks so pleasant and fun. Yeah, well, if you live in Philadelphia, you can’t have an outdoor Thanksgiving party with friends, says the city.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and health commissioner Thomas Farley announced a bunch of new COVID restrictions during a Monday press conference, including an outright ban on indoor gatherings of any kind with people from different households, religious gatherings excluded.

But their comments and the guidelines the city published online that same day left some people confused. And the biggest point of confusion seems to boil down to: I can still have my friends over for OUTDOOR Thanksgiving, right?

Alas, you can’t.

“While outdoors may be safer than indoors, being around people from other households is more dangerous than only being around people in your household,” insists Philadelphia health department spokesperson James Garrow. “And sitting with people from other households with no masks on is the most dangerous.”

Garrow adds that Farley has said many times in the days and weeks leading up to this announcement that Philadelphians need to change their Thanksgiving plans, limiting festivities to including household members only. Or, Farley has suggested, celebrate Thanksgiving with other households virtually. (Yay! More Zoom!) Keep in mind that these new restrictions are in place through at least January 1st. So you’ll have to make other plans for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve as well.

And Garrow points to the guidance published by the city on Monday, which specifically prohibits any outdoor events that serve food or drink. To wit:

Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10 percent of maximum capacity of the space, or 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft. for venues with an undefined maximum capacity — not to exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space. In addition, all individuals at outdoor gatherings must wear masks at all times, and — to reinforce mask use — neither food nor beverages may be served.

You may have thought they were talking only about “official” events or businesses hosting events. But no — they were talking about your outdoor Thanksgiving party as well. And to the reader who asked me if he and his neighbor could eat some turkey and mashed potatoes on their shared South Philly stoop: No, no, you may not.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that you can go to a restaurant and eat (which requires removing your mask, obviously) outdoors next to a table of people who don’t live in your household and who are also unmasked and eating — conditions you could easily replicate in your backyard or the neighborhood park. But if you’re looking for logic and consistency from the bureaucracy known as Philadelphia, you haven’t learned how to play this game just yet.

See you in 2021!