How to stay safe during the 2020 Holiday season

As we enter the holiday season in the year of the ‘new normal’, it may be best to continue to do things a little differently. Maybe you were planning on inviting the extended family over this year. Or maybe this was your year to host ‘Friendsgiving’ dinner? Take our advice and downsize or reimagine what your holidays will look like. One way to be safe is to cancel or keep your gathering small. This year, think about limiting guests to your immediate household.

For most, it’s not what they want to hear, especially this year. From figuring out if it’s safe to get back to work, to calculating whether you’ll have enough toilet paper, the last six months have been difficult. Then you add the fact that many are fighting ‘Pandemic Fatigue’, that feeling of being overwhelmed because of great uncertainty and constantly being on high alert.

Unfortunately, cases and hospitalizations are rising to numbers we haven’t seen since the beginning of the pandemic. With hospitalizations skyrocketing in 38 states, White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, is pointing to increased gatherings in people’s homes as a major catalyst. “What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors,” Birx said.

Is in person ‘worth it’?

When deciding what to do about your holiday plans, it’s time to ask yourself, “is it worth it?” Although it may feel safe to get together with family and friends that live close, these in-person gatherings pose varying levels of risk. This can be attributed to things like levels of COVID-19 transmission in the community, the duration and number of people at the gathering, and air quality.

While families may want to make plans to get tested in advance and only meet if everyone tests negative, that’s not a foolproof plan. The major reason is that people can become infected from the day they test, through the day they receive their results. Additionally, people in the early stages of a COVID-19 infection can test negative at first, but then test positive up to 14 days after the exposure. What’s more, some people will never exhibit any symptoms.

How to stay safe if you ‘must’ gather

As of now, there is no proven way for families to safely gather over the holidays amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate the risk. One way is to have all guests wear a mask and adhere to 6-foot social distancing. Although this may be difficult and feel completely strange, do it because you care about the well-being of your family and friends. Further, if possible, try gathering outdoors to limit the spread. If the weather won’t cooperate, try to have an air purifier with HEPA filter running or open windows to aid in air circulation.

Remember, the fewer the people, the better. A major catalyst behind the spike in cases is that people are growing tired of the isolation. Now is not the time to give up. Plus, your state may mandate it, as states across the country are restricting holiday gatherings. In fact, California is limiting them to three households for no more than a few hours, while Colorado has a two-household limit.

Check your state’s guidelines before you make your plans.

Make the call now so people can prepare

Now is the time to start to talk to your family about the holidays. Beginning the conversations earlier in the holiday season can help with planning and make it easier for family and friends to accept.

Don’t feel guilty about cancelling or downsizing. Whether it was your turn to host, or you haven’t seen distant family for over a year, it’s all about being safe. By keeping gatherings small you are helping protect yourself and your family members. The last thing you would want is a seemingly harmless dinner turn into an event where the virus was spread.

Get creative – embrace the new normal and do things differently

The great thing about change is that it presents opportunity. Think of this year as your opportunity to show your creative side. Here are a few ideas to help you get started on embracing this holiday season:

  1. Celebrate with virtual meals or social hours – Try Google Meet, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Have fun with it. Dress up or decorate with flair. Since you won’t be bringing your favorite dishes, ask everyone to “bring” something to contribute – like a favorite family story or photo.
  2. Play virtual games – Like Pictionary, Charades, Taboo, Bingo, or Scategories
  3. Gratitude bowl – Start this a week or two before Thanksgiving. Have all the participating households write something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper each day leading up to the holiday and add it to their household bowl. During your event, take turns reading aloud.
  4. Make phone calls – Catch up with your friends and family by making “Thanks” calls.
  5. Donate to a local food bank – Find your local food bank and have your family commit to “adopting a family” and use what would’ve been spent on the elaborate for those in need.
  6. Support local business – Take the day off from the kitchen and help support your local businesses. Order your holiday dinner from a local restaurant or market.

Stay safe, stay thankful

Regardless of what you do this holiday season, stay true to the holiday spirit and be caring toward one another. Let’s continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, chat at a distance and be thankful for the wonderful people in our lives.

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