The holiday season, with its tradition of bringing families and friends together, is fast approaching. However, as we plan for fall and winter holiday celebrations, how do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe given the continuing COVID-19 pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers valuable holiday guidance to help you lower the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Celebrating virtually or only with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread. However, if you are organizing a larger, more traditional gathering, or planning to attend one, please be mindful of the higher risk of virus spread based on the type and size of the event, as well as strategies in place to help mitigate those risks.
Here are some things you should be aware of:
- Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increases the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- The location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- The duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
- The number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people.
- The locations attendees are traveling from – Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area.
- The behaviors of attendees prior to and during the gathering – Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventive behaviors.
Are you hosting a holiday gathering?
If you’re planning to host a holiday event, you should:
- Remind guests to stay home if they are sick – Invited guests should stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing symptoms.
- Encourage social distancing – Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated. Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing.
- Wear masks – Wear masks properly when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors. Consider providing masks for guests or asking them to bring their own.
- Clean hands often – Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when entering and exiting social gatherings. Make sure there is adequate soap or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol available.
- Limit the number of people handling or serving food – Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks. If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items – Use touchless garbage cans and clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use.
Are you going to an event?
If you are planning to attend a holiday gathering, you should:
- Prepare before you go – Stay home if you are not feeling well, have been diagnosed, are awaiting test results or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Bring extra supplies (e.g., hand sanitizer, masks, etc.) to help you and others stay healthy.
- Use social distancing and limit physical contact – Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people who don’t live in your household. Consider arriving early or at off-peak times to avoid crowding.
- Wear masks – Doing so minimizes the risk of transmitting the virus.
- Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items – Avoid any self-serve food or drink options and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer immediately before eating food or after touching any common surfaces.
Are you planning to travel this holiday season?
Traveling increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you decide to travel, following the basic measures of wearing a mask in public settings, avoiding close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face will help keep you and those around you safer. Also consider whether COVID-19 is spreading at your destination. The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return.
You should also know whether your destination has requirements or restrictions for travelers. Some state, local, and territorial governments have requirements, such as requiring those who recently traveled to quarantine for up to 14 days. Check state, territorial, tribal and local public health websites for information before you travel. If you are traveling internationally, check the destination’s Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health or the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information page for details about entry requirements and restrictions for arriving travelers, such as mandatory testing or quarantine.