Many families have already started discussing how and where they’ll celebrate the holidays. And while they may not agree on the details yet, it’s important to open the lines of communication now, while there’s still time to take certain precautions if necessary. Staying home, merrymaking with the members of your household and celebrating virtually are the safest options, especially if you have elderly or health-compromised family members. But there are ways to decrease the risk for spreading or contracting COVID-19 if you choose to travel or gather.
The CDC offers these general considerations for hosting or attending fall and winter holiday get-togethers. Because official guidance related to COVID-19 will continue to evolve as more information becomes available, you should check their website for updates.
- Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities
- Shorter events pose less risk than longer ones
- If you can’t avoid an indoor event, host or attend one that’s not overly crowded or in a fully enclosed, poorly ventilated location
- Gather only with people from your local area if possible; congregating with people traveling from different places poses a higher risk than gathering with those who live in the same area
- Gather only with a limited number of people, based on the ability to reduce or limit contact
- Provide/ask for updated local COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as where masks are required
- Provide/bring supplies to help keep everyone healthy, including extra masks, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, wipes, tissues, etc.
- Consider asking your invited guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before coming to your event, or quarantining for 14 days prior to attending someone else’s event
Practicing the 3Ws can also help stop the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask in public places
- Watch your distance; stay six feet away from others
- Wash your hands often, for 20 seconds
And of course, it goes without saying that you should stay home if you’re sick, have recently had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more) to a person with COVID-19, or are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
Tips to make celebrating fun and safe
These fun and practical ideas, gathered from a variety of sources, can make the holidays merry and bright while helping to keep everyone safe:
For in-person gatherings:
- Be creative when arranging tables, chairs or other furniture so it's easier to stay 6 feet apart
- Create amusing signs that remind people to keep their distance, give air hugs instead of real ones, etc.
- Assign one person to serve food and drinks so that only one set of hands touches the serving utensils
- Or, invite people to serve themselves using their own, unused utensils
- Better yet, make it a BYO gathering—each family brings their own meal, paper goods, utensils etc.
- Ask kids to help think of activities that allow for social distancing, such as Frisbee, catch or sidewalk chalk art
For virtual gatherings:
- Mail holiday cookies and other treats to loved ones who live outside your area
- Host a virtual cookie-decorating party, gingerbread house contest, ornament-making party, etc.
- Prepare your holiday specialty dish and deliver it “contactless” to local family and friends
- Or, pass out family recipes ahead of time so everyone can prepare some of their favorite foods—then share a virtual holiday meal on FaceTime or Zoom
- Organize a holiday movie watch party using Teleparty or a similar app
- Foster a giving spirit: With the money you saved by choosing not to travel or host a gathering, give as a family to a favorite charity or food bank instead
- Share pictures of your holiday decorations and activities with friends and family
- Come up with new holiday traditions to make your celebrations meaningful and fun even if you can’t all be together
Holiday travel during COVID-19
According to the CDC, travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. However, with the general guidelines above in mind, some types of travel pose less risk than others. Driving in your own car with the immediate members of your family would seem to offer the least risk. However, other factors could increase that risk, such as traveling outside your local area, stopping for gas, food or restroom breaks, or traveling to visit family members who may be at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Traveling by air can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces, since it requires you to spend time in security lines and airport terminals. Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs don’t spread easily on flights. The Journal of American Medicine published an article illustrating why the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is low. However, you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours, making social distancing difficult on crowded flights. This may increase exposure risk to the virus that causes COVID-19.
The CDC strongly recommends these travel precautions:
- Wear a mask on all forms of public transportation and at transportation hubs, such as in bus or train stations and airport terminals
- Avoid all non-essential travel to high-risk destinations
- Postpone all travel, including essential travel, to high-risk destinations If you or someone you’re traveling with is at increased risk for severe illness
- Avoid all cruise ship travel, worldwide
Tips to avoid COVID-19 exposure risk on airplanes
Conde Nast Traveler and health experts offers these additional suggestions to avoid germs when flying:
- Know your airline’s social distancing policy before you book: Some airlines are still booking middle seats, while others are not
- Travel with carry-on luggage instead of a checked bag to minimize time spent waiting at luggage carousels
- Board early if possible: Health experts say that exposure to germs on a plane is highest before takeoff and after landing due to crowding
- Choose a window seat; sitting in the aisle may expose you to more potentially sick passengers
- Sanitize your seat, the seatback in front of you, your tray table, armrest, seat belt and overhead light and fan buttons with alcohol-based wipes
- Consider going snack-free on short flights to avoid having to remove your mask; if you must eat, pack your own snacks
- Get a flu shot to protect yourself against influenza—another highly contagious respiratory illness that is possible to have at the same time as COVID-19
At Medical City Healthcare, we’re dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you’ll Take Care!