The upcoming holidays are a time for families and friends to gather together. But with the weather getting colder and no sign that the pandemic will be over any time soon, families must find ways to have enjoyable experiences that minimize risk.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released detailed guidelines for what Americans need to know before traveling, hosting, or attending holiday gatherings. Here are our top 5 tips for celebrating the season as safely as possible.
Evaluate the level of risk you are willing to take.
While many of us are tired of being cooped up and deprived of connection with others, COVID-19 upticks are being reported in states across the country. No one is suggesting that people not get together with family and friends, but everyone needs to look carefully at their specific situation when making decisions.
Public health experts advise keeping gatherings small and limiting attendance to family and friends who share your beliefs about taking precautions to avoid contracting the virus. If someone is at higher risk of severe illness, consider having them join the festivities virtually. And if you feel sick at all, respect those you love and stay home.
Do your homework.
Make sure you assess the levels of COVID-19 infections where you are planning to host or attend a gathering. Carefully research what is happening in your community or the destination you are planning to visit, and monitor the situation regularly. Different states and cities will have different regulations, and local and state quarantine rules can vary from day to day. If infection rates climb, you might want to limit gatherings or even postpone or cancel your plans.
Stick with low-risk holiday activities.
All in-person activities pose some level of risk, but a bit of extra planning can help mitigate those risks. For instance, smaller crowds pose a lower risk than large gatherings with people from outside your immediate circle. You may decide to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas at home with members of your household, and resolve to have a larger in-person event once the pandemic subsides. Or host a virtual dinner or party with extended family. You might also prepare traditional holiday meals for family members or neighbors at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and arrange contactless delivery.
Shopping in crowded stores and malls and attending public holiday events are considered high-risk activities. Instead, shop online and watch parades, sporting events, or movies from home. And remember: Gatherings that include mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing are less risky than those without.
Outdoors is still better than indoors.
Outdoor activities pose less risk of contracting or spreading the virus than indoor. There have been plenty of family-friendly outdoor activities to enjoy this fall, but colder weather will require creative thinking. Plan to keep plenty of layers and warm blankets on hand, consider investing in outdoor heaters, and follow the lead of businesses and restaurants that have been using outdoor spaces in innovative ways. If you have to be indoors, open windows to increase circulation. And mask up outside as well as inside when it’s not possible to stay six feet or more from others.
Think carefully about travel.
During this year unlike any other, many families will rediscover the joy of being home for the holidays. For those yearning to get away from it all, travel in the COVID era has its own considerations. Driving may be safer than using public transportation. Shorter trips to destinations closer to home may be easier than longer ones, as some states have implemented mandatory quarantines for out-of-state visitors.
If you plan to fly, experts advise taking extra safety precautions while going through TSA screenings, sitting in boarding areas, and using public restrooms and transportation. And remember that, along with typical holiday travel woes like snowstorms and delays, reductions in flights and routes could make planning your trip more challenging. The key is to be as flexible as possible and, in true holiday spirit, focus on the things that matter most.