How to have a safe holiday gathering during COVID-19

November 02, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

The fall surge of COVID-19 cases is happening as predicted. Cold weather has driven many gatherings indoors, which is not the safest place to be with a group during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, the winter holidays are all about gathering with people we don’t often see, typically talking and laughing over a family-style shared meal.

How can we make the most of the holidays while also embracing public health recommendations to avoid spreading coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorized activities as lower, moderate and higher risk.

Lower-risk activities include:

  • Keeping it small. Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Delivering home-cooked meals. Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Gathering virtually. Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with family and friends
  • Shop online. Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the following Monday
  • Tune in. Watching parades, sports events and movies from home

Moderate-risk activities focus on gathering outdoors, such as outdoor meals and watching sports outdoors.

Higher-risk holiday activities include:

  • Hitting Black Friday sales in person. Shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving
  • Being a face in a crowd. Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race or attending crowded parades
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household

Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor ones. Shorter events are safer than longer ones.

Travel is also an important consideration. Where are people coming from to attend your holiday gathering, and what is the positivity rate in their home community? Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread increases the risk that someone could be infected.

While the CDC advises people to limit the number of guests you have over and to only host people who live in your household if possible, they offer these safety precautions for those who plan to gather with people from outside your household:

  • Consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Provide or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy. For example, extra masks (do not share or swap with others), tissues and hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Host events outdoors if possible. If it’s too cold, find a large, well-ventilated room and consider opening windows to allow for more air circulation
  • Instead of potluck-style gatherings, encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only. If you’re serving food family-style, consider having one person serve everyone to limit the number of people touching utensils
  • Check for guidance from your local and state health department when planning your event

As always, make sure you protect yourself and others by:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol
  • Wearing a mask if you cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance from people outside your household
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Avoiding handshakes and hugs. Greet people with a wave or verbally instead.
  • Staying home if you are sick

Need a doctor? We have hundreds of board-certified physicians to choose from. You can book your next appointment online today.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, your safety and well-being continue to remain our top priority. When you visit us, you will find consistent safety measures in place. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check


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