Preparations for the holiday season are underway during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Families are planning how to have a Thanksgiving dinner or open Christmas presents together while still preventing the spread of the virus. As a doctor, I have spent my professional career learning and preaching the importance of taking the right steps to stay healthy and protect others during times like this. If you choose to host or attend a holiday celebration, consider several factors before finalizing your decision:
Hosting or Attending a Holiday Gathering
The CDC recommends limiting in-person gatherings during the holiday season due to the varying levels of risk they pose. Celebrate with members of your own household or virtually to help reduce the risk of virus spread. If you celebrate with anyone outside your household, try to limit your exposure. Larger gatherings pose a larger risk than small gatherings, and staying at a gathering for long periods of time increases your risk. Check with your state’s restrictions on gathering sizes before finalizing your holiday plans.
Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose a larger risk for exposure than indoor gatherings with good ventilation or outdoor gatherings. If possible, hold your holiday celebrations outside, or if they’re indoors open windows and doors.
If possible, avoid traveling during the holiday season. If you have to travel to attend a holiday gathering, try to reduce your contact with people outside your household 14 days before the gathering. The CDC recommends assessing current COVID-19 levels in the area you may be traveling to or having visitors from. Check your state’s travel restrictions before inviting out of state visitors or before traveling to another state. When you’re traveling, make sure to follow social distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
Keeping Up Social Distancing
Maintaining social distancing during the holiday season is vital in reducing your risk. An April CDC simulation suggested that proper social distancing practices employed by 25% of the population could reduce cases 90% within 100 days. While hosting or attending gatherings and while traveling, keep at least six feet away from those outside your household. If hosting a holiday dinner, try to incorporate social distancing in the seating of guests. Seat those in the same household together while trying to distance them from people in other households.
Wear a Mask
Masks are required in many places, so make sure to bring one to your gatherings or when you travel. Even when a mask isn’t required, wear one to help keep yourself and others healthy. Masks are barriers that prevent droplets and germs from reaching others, which prevents the spread of the virus. Be sure to wear your mask properly, with the mask covering your mouth and nose. Try to limit your time at gatherings with your mask off, especially if you’re unable to socially distance during meals.
Maintain Good Hygiene Practices
Maintaining good hygiene is another way to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least sixty percent alcohol if soap and water aren’t readily available. Avoid touching things in public unless completely necessary, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Before hosting a gathering, clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. If possible, disinfect commonly touched surfaces during your gathering, and again after the gathering is over.
Reduce your exposure when it comes to holiday shopping by shopping online, or using curbside pickup or delivery options for your holiday meal groceries. Avoid shopping in crowded stores around Thanksgiving or as it nears Christmas. If you do shop in person, adhere to social distancing best practices and wear a mask in stores.
Those With Coronavirus
Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 recently, have symptoms of COVID-19, are waiting for test results, or have been or may have been exposed to someone with who tested positive for Coronavirus should not participate in any in-person holiday festivities.
Those Who Are in the High-Risk Population
If you are high-risk, avoid attending in-person gatherings. Consider doing virtual celebrations instead. If you must attend an in-person gathering, attend only low risk gatherings, such as outdoor gatherings where social distancing and properly worn masks are ubiquitous.
With these tips, you can still celebrate the holidays with your family and friends while keeping yourself and others safe from the Coronavirus. Happy Holidays!
Dr. Ari Bernstein’s Bio
Best-selling author with Jack Canfield for their book “Success Formula,” Ari Bernstein has been featured on Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, Market Watch, CBS, NBC, Fox, IBT, and Wall Street Journal. Board-certified internal medicine physician and has experience in emergency medicine, primary care, urgent care, sports medicine, pain management, nutrition as well as health and wellness.