As holidays approach, CDC puts shopping at crowded stores on Black Friday in high-risk category

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Shoppers walk past a placard that states “Black Friday preview” at a Macy’s store as pre-Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday shopping accelerates at the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, November 22, 2019.

Mark Makela | Reuters

As the holiday season approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is adding a common annual tradition to its higher risk category: Shopping at crowded stores.

On Monday, the CDC issued new guidance that discouraged Americans from packing into malls or standing in long lines before, on or after Thanksgiving. It added that to a list of activities with a higher likelihood of contributing to the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.

And, it noted, shopping online rather than in person on Black Friday or the days that follow are lower risk.

Retailers from Amazon to Target are trying to nudge Americans to start holiday shopping sooner and avoid crowds by extending their Black Friday deals. They’re also offering sales online and through smartphone apps rather than just in store. Several major retailers, including Walmart and Best Buy, have said they’ll start deals in October. Amazon confirmed it will have its Prime Day deals kick off at midnight PT on Oct. 13 and continue through Oct. 14. And Target announced its own programming: a promotional event dubbed Target Deal Days on the same two days.

The CDC is also discouraging other common holiday rituals that could become public health threats amid a pandemic. Among them, it warned of the risks of participating in Turkey Trots or other crowded races, attending crowded parades and gathering for large indoor events with extended family or friends.

Instead, it steered people towards low or moderate activities that can still be seasonal. For example, it said a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live nearby or a visit a pumpkin patch or apple orchard has moderate risk — so long as there are plentiful masks and hand sanitizer.

Lower risk activities include having a small holiday dinner with only people in your household or having a virtual dinner or recipe swaps with extended family and friends, the CDC advised.

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