As the country prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving amid the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom is making it easier to stay in touch with family and friends. In anticipation of a more socially distant holiday — as experts recommending skipping out on big gatherings this year — the video conferencing app is lifting its standard 40-minute limit on free video chats. The lift on the limit begins at midnight ET on Thanksgiving Day and lasts until 6 a.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 27th "so your family gatherings don't get cut short."
Having seen an increase in popularity amid the pandemic as many workplaces shifted to working from home, the 40-minute limit has been one of the major restrictions of the app. The limit is similar to those imposed by other video conferencing apps, with Google Meet capping calls at 60 minutes and Cisco Webex at 50 minutes. Many people have simply worked around the limit by starting a new call once the time limit is reached.
As a thank you to our customers, we will be lifting the 40-minute limit for all meetings globally from midnight ET on Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27 so your family gatherings don't get cut short. ❤️🏡 #ZoomTogether pic.twitter.com/aubsH0tfxG— Zoom (@zoom_us) November 10, 2020
Zoom's decision to lift the 40-minute call limit comes as health professionals encourage people to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family. Although a typical feast would oftentimes see multiple households come together to celebrate, health experts have warned that doing so amid the pandemic poses a serious risk and could lead to an "unprecedented surge" in Covid-19 cases, which are already on the rise across the country.
Due to these concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released "Celebrating Thanksgiving" guidelines, which notes that "traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu." To make the holiday safer, the CDC recommends that people adhere to the same coronavirus guidelines that have been pushed throughout the pandemic, including wearing a face mask or covering (the CDC recommends a mask with two or more layers), socially distance by at least six feet (or about two arm lengths), and frequently wash your hands.
For Thanksgiving dinners with people outside of your household, something that is advised against, in addition to the above recommendations, the CDC encourages people to bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils, avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, and use single-use options like salad dressing and condiment packets. It is also recommended that such dinners be hosted outside with a limited number of guests.