As 2020 draws to a close, we are faced with how to celebrate our fall and winter holidays safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current situation is obviously not optimal; Americans are used to gathering in large groups, sharing food, drinks, hugs, and gifts during the last 6 weeks of the year, and it is difficult to break these traditions.
How we approach Thanksgiving will have a direct impact on the upcoming holidays in December. We need to be careful and stay vigilant despite our longing to be with friends and family and wanting to embrace the traditions of the holiday season. This year will be different, and that can be disappointing to many people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the safest way to celebrate the upcoming holidays is with only the people who live in your house. However, if you plan to celebrate with people outside of your home, the following are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Regardless of whether or not you’re hosting, attending or celebrating at all, we must continue to follow the CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask
- Wash your hands often with soap; use hand sanitizer if you’re unable to wash your hands
- Maintain a social distance of 6 feet from people not in your household
- Stay home if you’re sick. If you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you should not travel to or host a holiday gathering.
Hosting or Attending a Gathering
Different states have different regulations on the sizes of gatherings we can host. Check your local and/or tribal regulations and limit the number of guests accordingly. Be extra careful about knowing who you are spending time with. For example, college students are coming home after being in contact with many different people. Have honest conversations about where you have been and with whom. It could be really important to help prevent super spreader situations.
If you’re hosting a gathering, the CDC recommends you:
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use
- Use disposable plates and utensils
- Talk to guests ahead of time to set expectations
- Host an outside gathering (weather permitting)
The CDC recommends staying home this holiday season as travel increases your exposure to COVID-19. If you do travel, several states have restrictions based on the state you’re travelling from, so check restrictions before you go. You may be required to get a COVID-19 test prior to travel or quarantine after you’ve arrived.
While travelling, wash your hands often. Try to maintain a 6-foot distance from people when possible. Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth. Stock up on supplies like masks and hand sanitizer (the TSA currently allows one 12-oz container of hand sanitizer per person in a carry-on bag when flying).
Look Out for Each Other
The pandemic is stressful, and holidays can be lonely. Check in on people who may not have anyone to spend the holiday season with or who may be struggling with loneliness during the holidays. Let them know you’re thinking of them even though you can’t be with them.
- Schedule a phone or video call to check in
- Make food for someone who is alone and drop it off on their porch
- If you’re lonely, reach out for help. Talk to people you trust or connect with community or religious organizations for support. If you are struggling with loneliness or depression contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
We won’t be able to celebrate traditionally with big parties and family meals this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the holidays with people. Make new traditions like virtual calls with friends and family or make a list of everything you’re grateful for this year. Practicing social distancing this year helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and increases the likelihood that next year we can be back to our normal routine with turkey, big family gatherings, and lots of hugs.