Portland-area families are balancing safety and celebration this holiday season.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Gavin Fulbright,19, left, Molly Martin, Erin Nicks-Martin, Pat Nicks and her husband Charley say prayers before having a meal Sunday evening. Molly and Erin plan to host Pat and Charley, Erin's parents, again for Thanksgiving.Who's ready for a Zoomgiving?

Across the Portland metro area, local families are masking up and battening down the hatches due to an alarming spike of cases of the novel coronavirus. And some will even cut the turkey over video-streaming apps.

For Wilsonville nurse Erin Nicks-Martin, it's all about monitoring the gate to her family's "COVID bubble."

Her parents, carefully reintroduced to the household as the pandemic reached the four-month mark, are in.

But friends of the family — and her two sons' girlfriends — are out.

"We usually open up to people who need a family, or whoever needs a meal and some company," Nicks-Martin said. "That's the big part that I feel like we're missing out on: just having an open house."

It's a sacrifice that public health authorities are pleading with the public to make.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, who serves as the lead health officer for the tri-county region, told Pamplin Media Group it's critical that households limit social gatherings to six people, use face coverings as much as possible, consider meeting out of doors and open windows to boost ventilation indoors.

"Going virtual is probably the best idea," Vines said. "We're really pushing the consequences of all those social interactions, and how that spreads the virus and possibly leads to a hospital overwhelm."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Molly Martin,left, Erin Nicks-Martin, Pat Nicks, Gavin Fulbright,19, and Charley Nicks, play a game of Dominoes, a family game favorite.Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced tightened occupancy limits for indoor dining service for all of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, and has suspended indoor visits to long-term care facilities. Those rules are currently in place through Nov. 25, Thanksgiving Eve.

Nicks-Martin, 42, works at a residential care facility in Multnomah County, where residents are asked about symptoms and administered temperature checks every day. Staff are tested for the coronavirus weekly — and thankfully no one has gotten ill yet, she said.

"It's been rough in the sense that our residents can't go anywhere like they used to," she said. "It was very anxiety-inducing when it all started."

Heather Buxton, of Hillsboro, said she plans to self-quarantine for two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving in order to see her parents, who are also quarantining, during the holidays.

Buxton's husband works at Intel, where the safety measures feel very secure, she said.

"We're going to box up meals and deliver them to our family and friends who would normally join us," Buxton said in an email to Pamplin Media. "If we have leftovers, we'll use them to make turkey pot pies and other yummy foods, and share."

Vines cautions that the colder months of fall and winter are known as "respiratory season" for good reason — normal diseases like the cold and flu spread easily as crowds gather indoors.

She recommends that anyone displaying symptoms seek out a COVID-19 testing site, and for everyone over six months of age to get their flu shot.

"There's no question that being alone in these dark and colder months is very difficult for people," she said. "We're asking people to take their risk down in whatever way makes sense for them."

And if that means arguing about politics by videolink, rather than over another helping of pie — hey, at least you can finally put your relatives on mute.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Molly Martin stirs a pot of chili she made for her family dinner.

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?

We asked on social media, and you answered. Here's how local families plan to spend the holidays this year:

• "Canceling travel, keeping our celebration within our household. It sucks to end seven years of 'friendsgiving,' but I would much prefer that everyone stay alive and healthy for us to continue our tradition next year." — Amanda McKinsey-Gholson, Portland

• "We have chosen not to gather, so I volunteered to work. Might as well take advantage of holiday pay and the chance to interact with coworkers instead of sitting at home." — Kimberly Burns, Wood Village

• "We are doing a Zoom call while we all eat and then hop on the Switch to play games remotely. It's not the same, but we'll make it work." — Charece Rood

• "We celebrate like there is no tomorrow!" — Karen Jessica Owens Garcia, Hillsboro

• "My Thanksgiving will remain the same as always and nothing has changed for me." — Eric Ledwith, West Linn

• "Nope, no family gatherings happening this year." — Jennifer Rush Burgwin

Zane Sparling
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