The past year has been far from ordinary. We have all had to learn how to navigate a world with new safety standards and health precautions. From mask-wearing to social distancing and new restrictions on some of our favorite activities, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered our daily habits. Although we have managed to adjust to these “new normals” for some time now, we have yet to navigate the holiday season during a global pandemic.
The holiday season translates to celebrations with close friends and family. However, this year, many wonder if it is possible to spend time with loved ones as usual. While the holidays may look different this year, it is still possible to be social and stay safe. Follow COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe and happy holiday season with your loved ones.
General guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID-19 are listed below.
Individuals should stay home and avoid in-person interaction if:
- Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
- Exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Awaiting COVID-19 test results
- Tested positive in the previous ten days
- Immunocompromised or at an increased risk of severe illness
If the above guidelines do not apply to your family, an in-person gathering may still be possible. Yet, there are other important factors to consider. In most states across the country, large groups are not permitted. To ensure the guest list does not exceed recommended limits, refer to local guidelines. Holiday gatherings should be as small as possible, and guests from different households are advised to stay at least six feet apart during the celebration. All guests should wash their hands upon arrival, but hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content will suffice if that is not possible.
When not eating or drinking, guests should wear a mask and avoid contact with others: Though it may be tempting to hug or high-five loved ones you have not seen in a long time, it is essential not to have contact with those who live in a separate household.
Hold gatherings outdoors, if possible: The chance of infection spreading decreases significantly when events are held outside. If you must host indoors, open windows and doors to allow for increased air circulation and ventilation.
The spread of COVID-19 is further enhanced by sharing items such as food, plates, and utensils: Avoid reusable items and have one person (wearing a mask) serve food to limit contact with a high-traffic area.
If you or your guests plan on traveling this holiday season, there are additional precautions to consider before your gathering.
Location, location, location: Keep in mind where you are traveling and what the local COVID-19 infection rates are for that area. Parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic differently. It is vital to know if the location you are traveling to or departing from has high transmission rates. Should these circumstances apply to either area, it is recommended that you or your guests stay home to avoid possible infection.
Transportation matters: What method of transportation will you be using? Air travel poses risks of infection via security lines, terminals, crowded flights, and bathrooms. It may be difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance between you and other travelers, so wear a mask through your travel duration. Different modes of public transportation, such as trains or buses, pose similar risks. Perhaps the safest transportation method is a personal car or RV, where social distancing is easier to maintain. However, it’s important to note that there is a risk of infection when stopping for gas, food, or to use the restroom. Remember to sanitize surfaces you may be touching and wear a mask inside any establishment.
If you or your guests do choose to travel, ensure that everyone takes the proper precautions:
- Wear a mask in public places.
- Wash your hands frequently or use at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching public surfaces.
- Use disinfectant wipes.
- Bring your food if possible.
If you decide that attending in-person events this holiday season is not the safest option, there are still many ways to create a memorable celebration. Here is a list of some alternatives to in-person gatherings this year.
Share a meal with members of your household: Even though it may not be how you typically celebrate, each member of your home can make a dish, and you can safely enjoy a meal together.
Cook for neighbors: Making dishes for those who live close and are possibly immunocompromised is a great way to safely spread the holiday spirit. Leave the container on the doorstep to maintain social distancing!
Connect virtually: Virtual connection has been an integral part of navigating COVID-19 this year. Use Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime to wish your loved ones a happy holiday and social distance at the same time.
Keep in mind that the winter months are already associated with infectious diseases such as the common cold and influenza. The addition of the COVID-19 pandemic adds health risks we have not seen before. It is more important than ever to take the proper precautions while following local, state, and federal guidelines. Ensure you and your loved ones receive a flu vaccine this year to cut down on risks this holiday season.
Despite COVID-19, it is still possible to maintain some aspects of your favorite holiday traditions. By following recommendations and guidelines, you can stay safe and social during the holidays!
- COVID-19 Map Risk Assessment Tool
- Zoomed Out
- Let’s Face it: Proper Mask Hygiene
- Healthy Me, Healthy SC COVID-19 Testing Sites: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/covid19/cu-covid-testing-sites/index.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, November 9). Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 21). Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
- Connecticut State Government. (2020, November 1). How can I prepare for holiday gatherings? Retrieved from https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Covid-19-Knowledge-Base/Holiday-Guidance
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, October 22). Coronavirus Travel Advice. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-safe-travel-advice/art-20486965