BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Leading up to Thanksgiving, Zoom has announced it will lift its 40-minute meeting limit for families who choose not to spend the holiday together because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The video conference service announced its decision to extend its meeting time Monday morning. The announcement comes at a time when scientists are recommending that families either drastically limit the number of people gathered together to celebrate the holiday or to scrap plans altogether for in-person gatherings.

The extended Zoom times will run between midnight on Nov. 26 and 6 a.m. Nov. 27.

Last Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its holiday guidance, noting the virus crisis is worsening and that small household gatherings are “an important contributor.” The CDC said older adults and others at heightened risk of severe illness should avoid gathering with people outside their households.

Experts point to Canada, where Thanksgiving was celebrated Oct. 12. Clusters of cases tied to family gatherings followed. “This sucks. It really, really does,” Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said two weeks later.

There’s no need to cancel the holiday entirely. Spending time with loved ones is important for health too, said Lacy Fehrenbach, Washington state deputy secretary of health.

The coronavirus spreads more easily when people are crowded together inside, so Fehrenbach encourages new outdoor traditions such as hiking as a family. Guest lists for indoor feasts should be small enough so people can sit 6 feet apart while unmasked and eating, she said. Open the windows to keep air circulating.

The more people who attend a gathering, the greater the chances that someone in the party will be carrying the virus, Fehrenbach said, “even someone that you know and love.”

For many, that risk means avoiding travel and connecting virtually will provide peace of mind.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.