Most of us wonder if there is a way to celebrate the holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic safely. Here are some ideas for enjoying the holidays this year.
Social distancing, lockdowns, and restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic had isolated many people and had resulted in stress. During the holiday seasons, family meals and small gatherings in the living room might seem to be the best opportunity to reconnect with our family and friends. But, doctors and scientists are worried that such holiday gatherings will accelerate the pandemic if people do not stick to proper respiratory etiquette and physical distancing. There is no such thing as a safe way for families to gather during such a pandemic, especially with the number of cases rising worldwide. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly infectious, so no in-person communication is without risk. But the risk can be reduced by making slight alterations like celebrating outdoors rather than indoors, wearing masks at all times, getting vaccinated, avoiding hugs and handshakes, and inviting fewer people.
This holiday season, learn how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep your friends and families safe and healthy.
Celebrating festivals with family members you live with or virtually carries the lowest risk for spread. Gatherings with friends and family members who do not currently live with you are considered risky. Before attending a party or dinner gathering, the following things should be taken into consideration, as these factors will determine the level of risk involved.
The Current Levels of COVID-19 - The risk of COVID-19 spread is more if there are increasing or high levels of COVID-19 cases in the place of the gathering and also in the areas where other members are coming from.
The Duration of the Event - Longer gatherings pose more risk than those that last shorter. Standing closer to someone within 6 feet for a total time of 15 minutes or more increases the risk of getting infected.
The Number of People Attending - People should be invited, keeping in mind the available space and attendees' ability to stay 6 feet apart.
Exposure While Traveling to the Location - You can get exposed to the virus while traveling. Trains, airplanes, buses, and all other public transportation carries risk. Lunch breaks and rest stops while traveling in a private car can also infect you.
Location of the Event - Small and enclosed places are the worst, as poor ventilation can result in the rapid spread of the virus. Outdoor gatherings are better, and if it is indoors, ensure that it is properly ventilated.
If the Guests Follow Safety Measures - Be sure that all the invited guests follow proper safety measures before or during the event. Also, using alcohol and drugs can make it difficult to follow safety tips.
Vaccination - Last but not the least, make sure the guests invited are vaccinated with both the doses and the booster dose (if eligible) to avoid unnecessary infection spread.
Avoid hosting or attending holiday gatherings if you or anyone in your house are at high risk of getting severe COVID-19 infection. The following people should avoid attending holiday gatherings in-person:
People with symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough, fever, etc.
Individuals who are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
COVID-19 positive patients.
Those who have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient in the last two weeks.
Pregnant women, immunocompromised people, cancer patients, and people with any underlying chronic condition should also consider the risk of getting infected.
People who are not vaccinated yet, can better avoid such gatherings to avoid infection.
In case your loved ones are unable to attend in person, you can celebrate virtually through a video call.
The following steps will prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus during holiday gatherings -
Tips for the Host:
Keep extra masks, hand sanitizers (more than 60 % alcohol), and tissues ready, so your guests can use them.
If possible, place markers on the floor at every 6 feet to remind people of social distancing.
Along with the invitation, send a list of do's and don'ts, which should list all things to do and avoid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Request all your guests to carry a bag to keep their masks while they are eating.
Tips During the Event:
Keep a safe distance from your friends and family. Do not gather around one table. You can put up multiple tables and chairs to prevent crowding.
Avoid gathering near the restroom and eating areas.
Do not hug or shake hands. Wave or greet them verbally.
For kids, plan activities that do not require them to stand too close or huddle. Examples include playing Frisbee.
Even if they are your friends or family, do not forget to wear masks at all times, except while you are eating and drinking.
Do not sing, shout, or chant without wearing a mask.
Clean and wash your hands thoroughly prior to and after cooking or eating.
Limit the number of people going near the place where food is being cooked. And avoid carrying drinks and food for others.
Instead of self-service and buffet stations, let one person serve everything.
Serve your guests food on disposable plates, cups, and utensils.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect tabletops, doorknobs, handles, chairs, and other commonly touched surfaces.
Keep touchless garbage cans, so your guests can dispose of tissues.
Avoid pets to come in contact with people who do not live with you.
Wear gloves while taking out the trash.
Tips After the Event:
It is best to take extra precautions for 14 days after attending such gatherings because of the current scenario. As much as possible, stay at home and avoid being around others. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, consider getting tested. In case you test positive, immediately inform the host and other guests that attended the party. This will reduce the spread of COVID-19, as others will be more careful, and they will get tested.
We know this requires a lot of planning. But a little effort can save yours and your family or friends' lives and minimize the risk of COVID-19.
In case you are planning to travel or stay somewhere overnight during the holiday season, you should follow precautionary measures, such as washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, opening the hotel rooms windows for ventilation, disinfecting (using disinfectant spray or wipes) all the surfaces that you touch in the room, and carrying your food if possible.
We would advise against traveling or attending large gatherings until COVID is completely eradicated, as the risk is too high. Instead, you can:
Send gifts or cards online.
Celebrate through video or audio calls.
Share a meal remotely.
This indeed is not the ideal way to celebrate any festival, but it will be memorable in a different way. Even though scientists have found COVID-19 vaccines most of the population are already vaccinated, they still advise all people to wear masks, social distance, wash hands frequently, and avoid gatherings so that the further spread will eventually be avoided. By following these instructions, we would once again hug and meet people we love in person. But until then, stay safe and have a healthy holiday season.
Last reviewed at:
12 May 2022 - 5 min read
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