Celebrating Safely: Staying Safe During the Holidays During the Pandemic
As 2020 gets closer to a close, there still doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the global pandemic. For many Americans, wearing a mask has become just another part of our daily routine when we need to step out of the house for work or errands. It may have taken us a few months to adjust, but putting on a mask has become routine for most people as we all work together to control the spread of the virus.
Many countries are now seeing new rounds of infections, with some going back into quarantine in order to slow down further infections. As restrictive as quarantine can be, it has proven to work. But just like any kid knows really well, the worse a medicine tastes the better it has to work. Combined with the coming flu season, the winter months of 2020 may be very dangerous if we’re not cautious.
As we get closer to the holiday seasons where traditions call for family gatherings and parties, things will likely be very different in 2020. However, being cautious doesn’t mean we have to completely cancel the holiday season. The holidays can still be enjoyable and fun even though we’re taking precautions not to spread the virus unknowingly.
While the CDC has yet to make recommendations on how to be cautious for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are already some things you can do that are low risk that will keep you, your family, and your friends safe when carving up that Thanksgiving turkey or opening up Christmas presents.
However, before you follow these suggestions, there are a few things you must remember before even attempting low risk activities.
- Always use hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes to keep your hands clean after touching objects or surfaces
- If you’re feeling even the slightest bit ill, stay home or stay away from people
- Practice social distancing by staying at least six (6) feet away from others
- Keep your home as clean as possible and disinfect surfaces where multiple people touch such as door handles and countertops.
- When around people you don’t live with or in groups larger than 10, always wear a mask and practice social distancing as best you can
- If you’re considered high risk because of a medical condition, it’s important to avoid any situations where you might become exposed. This means staying home as much as possible.
Low Risk Holiday Activities
When it comes to low risk things to do for the holidays, many of them revolve around doing things around the house with the family or friends in your house or apartment. Since there is practically no risk not wearing a mask around the house, there are quite a few things you and your family can do safely.
- Watch Sports on TV
- Play Video Games
- Cooking and Baking
- Sharing a meal together
- Playing board games
- Watching a Movie
- Sharing a dinner with your family and neighbors who are considered high risk
- Have virtual dinner parties
- Shopping Online
- Going for a walk, hike, or run
- Bike Rides
- Building snowmen
- Virtual Costume Contests
- Virtual streaming parties
- Decorating for Halloween or Christmas
Beyond doing things in your house and with your family, there are some low risk social activities you can do with people outside your family as well. However, most of these activities will need to take place outdoors since the chance of spreading the virus increases when activities are held indoors.
- Picnics - Making food at home, buying food from a take out restaurant, or buying food from a food truck and then eating them outdoors in an open picnic area is a safe option
- Visiting Farmer’s Markets - Since these tend to be a bit more crowded, it’s important to make sure you wear a mask and try to practice social distancing when at all possible
- Small social gatherings - While a common social gathering is possible for a group of 10 or less people, it’s highly recommended that not only everyone practice social distancing and wear masks, but you should also skip the handshakes and hugs. If you’re going to be sharing a meal, make sure you’re wearing your mask when you’re not eating or drinking.
Moderate Risk Activities
While moderate risk activities slightly increase the chances of infection, they can still be done safely so long as everyone participating is practicing the basic precautions. However, if you or anyone in your household is at high risk, it’s highly inadvisable that anyone in your house participate in moderate risk activities if at all possible to reduce the risk of accidentally transmitting the virus.
Some seasonal moderate risk activities you can participate in during the season include
- Visiting a pumpkin patch
- Visiting a Christmas tree farm
- Outdoor festivals (Making sure to wear a mask and social distance as much as possible
- Go Apple Picking
- Going to an outdoor sporting event (with adequate social distancing and making sure everyone is wearing appropriate face coverings)
- Take an open-air hayride
- Visiting a corn maze
- Attending an outdoor parade
- Holding a virtual dinner party
- Watching holiday parades from home
While it’s not recommended to have family dinners the way we’d like, there are ways to have a meal together safely. As dinners require a lot of touching of utensils and passing dishes and containers to one another, there is a higher risk of transmitting the virus to others, especially by those who are asymptomatic.
When having friends and family over, firstly make sure everyone is feeling healthy, has no symptoms, or hasn’t been in any situations where they may have been exposed to the virus. Practicing proper hygiene, while not a guaranteed way to prevent the virus, can go a long way to keep you and your loved ones safe.
A few key steps to take include:
- Making sure to wash hands 20 minutes before preparing, serving, and eating foods. Using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is sufficient if you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Though it’s not traditional, it’s best to avoid potluck-style dinners where everyone brings their own dish to the meal. Instead, it’s safer if guests bring their own food and drink for themselves and for other members of their household.
- Try to keep people from coming in and out of the kitchen or areas where food is being prepared
- Wear a mask if you’re preparing foods for people who don’t live with you
- Avoid letting people serve themselves when dinner is ready. Instead, have one person prepare plates for everyone.
- Use single-use items like utensils, condiments, drinking cups, and plates so they can be disposed of after the meal.
- Wash and disinfect any reusable items you put out that many people may have touched such as linens, seat covers, napkins, etc.
If you and your family decide to have others over for the holidays, it’s best to take a few extra precautions for the next couple of weeks after the festivities are over.
- Stay home as much as possible, even if you’re feeling fine
- Stay away from people, especially those who are considered high risk to avoid infecting them by accident
- Consider getting a Covid-19 Test, especially if you begin to feel cold or flu symptoms
If you test positive for Covid-19, make sure you provide information to public health care workers about any places or people you may have come in contact with and make sure you notify people who attended your gathering that you tested positive.
When in Doubt, Play it Safe
Many experts agree there may be a spike in Covid cases as we approach the colder months. Therefore, it is important to not let your guard down while you’re preparing to celebrate the holidays. This means remembering to wear a mask when shopping for groceries or gifts if you’re not shopping online, practicing good hygiene like hand washing when possible, and making sure to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or sanitizing wipes.
If you’re not sure about going on out this year, stay home and celebrate either with members of your household or virtually. Consider donating to a local organization raising funds to provide holiday meals for families hurt the hardest by the pandemic.
Remember it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure we do our part to make sure we aren’t unnecessarily spreading the virus when we don’t know we’re infected. And it’s also important not to take unnecessary risks of being exposed simply because we don’t want to be home.
Keep you and your family safe this holiday season and play it safe when possible.