Many Americans are looking forward to reuniting with loved ones during the fall and winter holidays. But as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the nation, most of us are also wondering if and how we should consider gathering this holiday season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides helpful information for navigating holiday celebrations with everyone’s health in mind. Celebrating virtually or with members of your household (or quarantine “pod”) presents low risk for spread of COVID-19. Gathering in person poses varying levels of risk depending on the event size, location, duration, behaviors of attendees before the gathering, community levels of COVID-19, and other factors.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not met criteria for safely being around others, you should not host or participate in an in-person celebration. The same advice applies if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are waiting for COVID test result, may have been exposed in the past 14 days, or are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Traveling increases the odds of getting and spreading the virus. Try to limit holiday travel and if you decide to travel, make sure to wear a mask in public settings, avoid close contact from anyone from outside of your household, wash/sanitize your hands frequently, avoid contact with anyone who is ill, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Hosting a Holiday Gathering
If you are hosting a celebration this year, the CDC recommends hosting outdoor activities as much as possible. If hosting outdoors is not possible, avoid crowded, full enclosed, or poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Open windows or doors as much as possible based on the weather to increase ventilation. Limit the number of attendees and try to only include people from your local area.
Provide or encourage others to bring supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer. If you plan to host people from outside of your household, consider asking guests to strictly avoid contact with anyone outside of their own households for 14 days prior to the gathering.
During the Celebration
The CDC recommends maintaining a distance of at least six feet from people you don’t live with. It also recommends wearing a mask at all times when you’re around people who do not reside in your household to reduce risk of spreading the virus. Avoid singing, chanting, or shouting, especially when not wearing a mask. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces regularly. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
Wear a mask when preparing or serving food to others. Avoid potluck-style or buffet gatherings. Consider having one person serve all the food to prevent multiple people from handling the serving utensils.
After the Gathering
If you participated in higher risk activities or think there is a possibility that you were exposed during the celebration, take extra precautions for 14 days after the event to protect others. Stay home as much as you can and avoid being around individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness. Consider getting tested for COVID-19. If you do develop symptoms or test positive, contact the host and others that attended the event.
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