WASHINGTON — As coronavirus cases spikes again across the United States, the video communications company Zoom announced it will be lifting its timed meetings limit for Thanksgiving.
In a tweet, the company said the normal 40-minute restriction on its free meetings will be lifted globally from midnight on Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving Day) through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27. It said this decision was made so "your family gatherings don't get cut short."
Normally, a free plan offered by Zoom only allows for 100 participants in a meeting for a maximum time of 40 minutes. A paid plan, starting at $149.90 for a year license, allows for unlimited group meetings with no time limit.
The move comes as health officials and experts encourage Americans to stay home, social distance and wear masks this Thanksgiving to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance and steps for Americans to take to safely celebrate Thanksgiving.
It claims a high-risk activity amid the virus is "attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household." But a low-risk activity, which is highly encouraged, involves "having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family."
In an interview with "CBS Evening News" host Norah O'Donnell at the beginning of October, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, highlighted the concern about the virus spreading in the fall. He said people should be careful "about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition."
That includes holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving.
"You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you're pretty certain that the people that you're dealing with are not infected," Fauci told O'Donnell.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has nearly 11 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Monday, the U.S. had more than 246,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 54 million confirmed cases with more than 1.3 million deaths.