As the holiday season approaches and COVID-19 is still a very real and very serious threat, experts fear that the time previously accustomed to large parties with eating, drinking, and other festivities, will result in post-holiday peaks in positive COVID-19 cases. Although this was also a concern for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently stated that the Christmas/New Year season may present even more of a challenge. Since it is a longer holiday, people may be more inclined to travel and thus participate in larger gatherings. As a result, it is important that everyone is informed on how to celebrate the holidays in a safe way.
All of the guidelines in this article are proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and have been updated as recently as December 4, 2020. It is also important to note that every state, local, territorial, or tribal rules and laws concerning gatherings, such as a restriction on the number of people present, must be respected and met with compliance.
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The CDC identified that celebrating the holiday season virtually is the safest measure for restricting the spread. This includes virtual meetings through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Webex, etc., where family members all across the country can still interact and spend time with one another. Travelling has been identified as a risk that increases an individual's chance of contracting and spreading COVID-19 and as a result, staying home is the best method to protect yourself and others this year.
However, it is important to be realistic and understand that despite the risks, there are people who will still travel. If you or someone you know is traveling, it is important to get tested and quarantine before your travels in order to reduce the risk; however, testing does not completely eliminate the chance of contracting COVID-19. When traveling, be sure to wear a mask at all times, maintain six feet from those around you, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and avoid touching your face and readjusting your mask.
To reiterate, staying home and celebrating virtually is the safest method for this holiday season; however, a realistic perspective must be adopted and it should be recognized that there will still be people traveling and participating in larger gatherings. If you or someone you know will be interacting with individuals from different households, make sure to avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, and try to only gather in outdoor settings as this improves ventilation. When outdoors, make sure to still wear a mask and maintain six feet of distance. Also, make sure to continuously wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. To further avoid contact, it is recommended that everyone bring their own supplies to gatherings. This includes their own food, drinks, utensils for eating, extra masks and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Make sure to clean and disinfect areas of high contact, such as countertops and door handles. Even be aware of who your pets interact with by making sure that individuals who are not members of the household pet or play with them. When you return from traveling, it is also important to get tested again and quarantine in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
It is also important to make sure that both yourself and those around you have received the flu vaccine for this season. This is an important vaccine to receive as it can protect you and your family’s health. The vaccine can still be accessed at doctor’s offices and pharmacies and is critical to receive in order to prevent the spread of another infectious disease.
These recommendations are crucial to adhere to if you choose to travel or celebrate with other individuals. However, the safest measure is to celebrate at home and virtually. Ensuring that the health of both yourself and those around you is protected is of the highest priority this holiday season.