MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Gathering with family for Thanksgiving is an American tradition. But this year, health experts warn even small get togethers indoors could be risky for spreading the coronavirus.

How to celebrate without spreading COVID-19 is weighing on many families.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is virtually so with our immediate family, the people with whom we live, and keeping the group small. I think if people do that, we have a much better chance of staving off and dealing with the surge that we’re seeing now,” says Dr. Helen Boucher with the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The CDC says small outdoor dinners with family and friends who live in your community are considered moderate risk, and large indoor gatherings with people not from your household are considered high risk.

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“The highest risk is being indoors in a poorly ventilated space with a lot of people who are not covering their face. That could set up a perfect storm,” Dr. Boucher says.

Leading U.S. medical and health organizations on Thursday also called on the American people to celebrate safely this holiday season by scaling back traditional gatherings to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 to friends and loved ones.

An open letter from the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, and American Nurses Association, reads in part, “With Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaching and a deadly COVID-19 pandemic surging, we – the physicians, nurses, hospital and health system leaders and public health professionals on the front lines of this pandemic –  strongly urge everyone throughout our country to celebrate responsibly, in a scaled-back fashion that limits the virus’s spread, to help reduce the risk of infecting friends, family and others you love.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

The CDC also issued new guidance on Thursday advising Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, warning doing so may increase the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

If you are planning to travel for Thanksgiving, doctors say it’s critical to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, wipe down frequently touched surfaces, and try and keep your distance if possible.

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The Franklins have a long-standing tradition of all gathering together to celebrate Thanksgiving in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Normally we have 30, 40 people in our house,” says Jennifer Franklin.

But this year, with elderly grandparents and loved ones with health conditions, the family is opting for a Zoom Thanksgiving.

“We figured we could do breakout rooms, the kids could have their own space, the men can have their own space. People could break into groups just to talk about different topics,” Franklin says.

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Even with their modified plans, the Franklins say they have plenty to be thankful for.

“Even though it’s not safe to be together indoors, being able to be together, that is enough, I think,” Franklin says. They hope other families also choose to keep each other safe this holiday.

Another Thanksgiving tradition experts say you should avoid this year is Black Friday shopping, since large crowds are often unable to social distance.

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