How will your holiday season look different this year? Are you putting off any travel or get-togethers? A survey from the company Morning Consult found that 47% of Americans are planning to cancel their holiday get-togethers. That means that 53% still plan to see family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays this season. With Covid-19 numbers spiking up yet again, it’s crucial to think about what you can do to ensure you have a safe, socially distanced gathering if you plan to travel and see loved ones in person. This is especially important for seniors, who are at greater risk for getting the virus.
Here are nine tips to help ensure you stay safe at family gatherings over the holidays.
Get a flu shot
Why is a flu shot important before you see family for the holidays? Well, flu spreads quickly during the colder months, and that’s why public health experts have worried about a “twindemic” this winter, meaning both Covid-19 and the flu spread among the general population at the same time. By getting the flu vaccine in advance, you can limit your risk for one of these contagious viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Find out logistics about the holiday gathering before committing to solid plans
Find out from your loved ones what the logistics of the get-together will be and how safe they plan to make it for everyone. Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Will it be outdoors or indoors? (Of course, outdoor gatherings will be harder in Northern locations this time of year.)
- If the gathering will be held inside—will windows be open to help encourage ventilation?
- How many people will be there?
- Will everyone wear masks?
- What are the current Covid-19 numbers in the area where you are traveling?
- Has anyone in the group had Covid-19 or been exposed to someone recently with Covid-19?
The answers to these questions can help you determine if you feel safe attending the gathering.
Consider asking attendees to quarantine in advance of holiday plans
One way to cut the risk of Covid-19 spread at a holiday gathering is to ask if everyone will avoid contact with others outside their household as much as possible in the 14 days preceding the holiday gathering, the CDC suggests. That may not be realistic for everyone (including students going to school in person and those working outside the home), but it’s worth asking the question. The 14-day time window is important because it can take that long for symptoms of coronavirus to develop after exposure.
Use common sense while traveling
Many more people are driving to their holiday travel destinations this year instead of flying to help limit their contact with others. Whether driving or flying, follow the same common-sense recommendations you’ve heard all year, including the following:
- Wear a mask when in contact with others.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from others (that’s about two arm lengths).
- Wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- As much as you can, limit your stops and your contact with others outside of those who are part of your travel group.
Keep following these same guidelines at your gathering and where you plan to stay at your destination.
Get everyone on the same page on how to greet each other
Hugs may be lovely in normal times, but you’ll want to consider another option right now to stay on the safe side. Agree in advance with others to wave and verbally greet others. Although you may still want to do small gestures such as bumping elbows or shaking hands, the CDC says waving and verbally greeting others is the safest greeting right now.
Keep your distance and wear a mask
As happy as you might be to see your loved ones, maintain your social distance of at least 6 feet and wear a mask during the holiday gathering unless you’re eating. The host should have seats set up with more distance than usual between them.
Avoid loud talking or singing
Now here’s an excuse to get out of the holiday sing-along or a heated discussion on politics. Loud talking or singing in an indoor setting is one of the quickest ways to spread COVID-19, so steer clear of it. Stick to normal conversation in a normal tone (while wearing a mask, of course).
Go with single-serve food options as much as possible
Avoid self-serve food or drink options such as buffets or buffet-style potlucks. Instead focus on grab-and-go meals as much as possible, or have one person serve food for everyone to lower the number of people touching utensils and other food-related items. Choose healthy food options such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to keep your immune system strong.
Take some special steps once you get back home
If you think you may have been exposed to the virus during your travels, stay home as much as you can for 14 days, and consider getting tested for COVID-19. Make sure to avoid being around others who are at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus, such as those with immunocompromised diseases. If you get a COVID-19 test, stay home until you have the results.