Having Safe Holiday Gatherings

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I come from a large family. As the holidays approach I can’t help but think about how the many traditions we are so used to are going to have to change due to COVID-19. As cases continue to rise millions of Americans are going to have to make some tough decisions with regard to the safety of their loved ones. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) have outlined many tips for families during the holiday season. 

There are many risks involved when having any sort of social gathering. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their surrounding communities when deciding whether to plan a holiday event. Information on the number of cases in a particular area can be found on the area’s health department website. 

The location of the event is also an important factor. Outdoor gatherings or indoor gatherings with plenty of ventilation – such as open doors or windows – are recommended. Families should also keep in mind that longer events and large groups of people pose more of a threat than shorter events and small groups. 

The CDC does not have a recommended number of attendees but states, “The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.”

When hosting an event it is a good idea to inform guests of COVID-19 procedures set in place to keep everyone safe. This includes staying as socially distant as possible – six feet is recommended – and wearing protective gear like face masks or shields. Encourage guests to wash their hands frequently and deter them from any physical contact with other guests. 

Consider the locations guests are traveling from as well, and research the current COVID-19 levels in those areas. Encourage guests to consider avoiding contact with those outside their households for 14 days before the event if possible to further reduce risks. Avoid inviting those who are known to not follow these regulations or guests with health concerns that give them a higher risk. 

During the event, make sure all commonly used areas are frequently sanitized and consider touchless garbage disposals. If there is food or drink involved make sure all guests wash hands for at least twenty seconds before preparing, serving or consuming food. Instead of having a potluck, consider asking guests to bring food only for themselves and members of their own household. If serving food, consider having one server only to reduce risk and use single-use dressings, condiments, utensils, plates etc. If choosing to use reusable items, wash and disinfect before and after each use. 

After the celebration, consider staying home for 14 days and avoiding contact with those outside the household. It may be wise to then get tested for COVID-19, especially if experiencing any symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, fever or cough.

Take all of that into consideration, it may be best to just stay virtual. Planning a live online event – like a Zoom Halloween costume contest or Thanksgiving recipe share – is ultimately the safest option with no risks involved. 

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