How to Stay Safe This Holiday Season During the Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Stay Safe This Holiday Season During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The holidays are different this year. With Thanksgiving about to kick off the annual season of celebration, epidemiologists are concerned that coronavirus cases will surge over the next six weeks due to family 'superspreader events,' making an already dire situation in the United States even worse.

Unfortunately, being safe this holiday season doesn't simply depend on wearing coronavirus face mask protection. You should weigh the risks of gathering with family and take extra precautions to protect everyone involved. Here are some tips to help you safely navigate the holidays ahead.

Assess Your Risks

At small in-person gatherings, numerous factors contribute to the risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus:

Coronavirus Infection Levels in the Community

Are COVID-19 cases soaring in your family's chosen gathering location? Are attendees coming from high-infection areas? Family and friends must consider the number of coronavirus cases in their communities as well as the community they plan to celebrate in.

Travel Exposure

If you are hosting traveling family members or are traveling yourself, be cautious and realistic about the risks involved. Airports, gas stations, rest stops, as well as train and bus stations are all places that people can be exposed to the coronavirus in the air or on surfaces.

Gathering Environment

Indoor gatherings pose substantially more risk of coronavirus infection than outdoor gatherings. This risk is compounded in small, enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Gathering Duration

The longer your gathering lasts, the more coronavirus infection risk. To put this in perspective, if you're within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for only 15 minutes, your chances of becoming sick are drastically increased. In fact, you should immediately conduct a 14-day quarantine.

Number of Gathering Attendees

Gatherings with a lot of attendees pose more of a coronavirus risk than smaller celebrations. Base the size of your holiday gathering off how well attendees from different households can maintain a 6-foot distance from one another.

Attendee Behavior

If individuals at your attended gathering have not been consistently adhering to social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing, they significantly increase the risk of coronavirus infection. On a similar note, gatherings that implement more safety measures like the ones we just mentioned pose less of an infection risk than celebrations with few or no preventive measures. Keep in mind that the use of alcohol or drugs can impair people's judgment and make it harder to practice coronavirus safety measures properly.

Risks vs. Responsibilities

By assessing the various risks discussed above, you should be able to gain a clearer perspective of your own personal risk for coronavirus infection. It's imperative that you weigh these concerns against your other responsibilities. For example, if you or a loved one is at a higher risk of a severe case of COVID-19, then you must do what's necessary to protect yourselves. And if that means skipping the holiday gathering, that's completely fine.

Also, be aware that your situation can change suddenly. Whether that means a positive test or an onset of symptoms, the best-made plans can be altered at the last minute. This is okay, too. It's vital that you and your family members are able to adapt accordingly — safety is the main priority here.

Safety Tips for Holiday Gatherings

If you've decided to attend or host a holiday gathering, these safety tips can go a long way towards ensuring everyone has a good time and stays healthy:

Are You Attending a Holiday Gathering?
  • Bring your own food, drinks, utensils, plates, and cups.
  • Use single-use options such as disposable plates, utensils, and food containers.
  • Wear a face mask and safely store it while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of areas where food is being handled.
Are You Hosting a Holiday Gathering?
  • Have your gathering and meal outdoors.
  • Limit the number of attendees.
  • Set safety expectations with your guests ahead of time.
  • Sanitize frequently touched items and surfaces between use.
  • If you are celebrating indoors, open your windows for better ventilation.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • Limit the people in food handling areas.
  • If sharing food, one person should serve the food.
  • Use single-use options.
  • Make sure that all parties from different households can maintain 6 feet of distance from one another.

Don't Forget the Coronavirus Safety Basics

Make sure to keep an eye on the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees are coming from as well as your intended place of gathering. Be objective when considering whether it's safe or not to hold your holiday celebration. Other than that, don't forget the essential protocols of coronavirus safety:

Wear Face Mask Protection

Whether you prefer cloth face masks, surgical masks, or neck gaiters, make sure your coronavirus face protection has two or more layers. This helps substantially in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Make sure the mask fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and the sides of your face.

coronavirus protection mask
Stay 6 Feet Away from Others Who Don't Live With You

Remember that it's possible for asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers to still spread the virus. So do your best to keep 6 feet away from other people that don't live in your household.

Sanitize Your Hands

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer on your person in case you can't wash your hands often. And make sure your hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol.

Safety First

We know that things are a little different this year. It's safe to assume that many of us will have to make sacrifices and forgo our typical holiday celebrations. While that may be disappointing in the short-term, remember that it's for a good cause: By taking preventive measures now and choosing to be cautious, we're increasing the chances that we can celebrate future holidays with our loved ones. Stay safe out there.

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