How to Connect Over the Holidays Without Risking COVID-19

With a chill now in the evening air and fireplace hearths heating up, what better way to shift gears into the new season than to break out the hot chocolate and soak in some quality time with the people who mean the most? Oh, except there's a pandemic. For those of us who live far away from loved ones, the holidays are often a time to reconnect, catch up and strengthen family bonds. COVID-19 will derail a lot of plans this year, but the holidays don’t have to be a bust. Here’s how to connect without taking any unnecessary risks.

The Importance of Flexibility During a Pandemic

Family and friends are going to need to be flexible this year. So are we all. We know that we need socializing and family comfort to help us get through the winter months. That's a very real need and one we don't want to discount, we get that it's vital. But we can meet these needs and come away from the holidays without putting everyone at risk and contributing to the spread if we are smart and willing to be flexible.

To be clear, we recommend what the CDC has laid out repeatedly: The only safe gathering is a virtual gathering.

The CDC breaks down family gatherings into a few different risk levels:

  • Small, outdoor get-togethers, where all attendees come from the same local area, wear masks and stay 6 feet apart, pose the fewest risks but are still riskier than virtual gatherings.
  • Moderately sized groups that allow people from different regions are taking higher risks, especially if they’re meeting indoors. Doing so is likely to cause community-level spread.
  • Larger gatherings, where proper distancing may be difficult to achieve, pose the highest threat and should be avoided.

Also, keep in mind that the longer everyone is in the same space together, the higher the chances of illness spreading among a group. People having gatherings even in outdoor locations might want to keep their time together limited. 

Remember that given the incubation time, testing is not a reliable method for assessing risk at this time. Unless a person has quarantined for two weeks prior to the event and then tests negative immediately beforehand, there is not a reliable way to eliminate risk using testing as a guide. So what's a family to do?

Outdoors as a COVID-19 Gathering Option

Keeping gatherings strictly outdoors might be difficult to pull off during colder temperatures, especially if snow is involved, but there are ways to keep guests warm. AARP recommends trying fire pits, patio heaters and even heated furniture to help keep everyone comfortable. Remember that setting up tents immediately makes the outdoors, indoors, so those are a no-go. It's the open air that helps protect people.

But using strategic placement of heaters and a carefully planned distancing, it is possible to have an enjoyable event. Here are some tips:

  • Keep everyone in pods at tables with only their household.
  • Ask people to bring their own utensils and plates and to keep them at their tables.
  • Use a system to keep people from being inside (to use the restroom) at the same time. One person in, one person out.
  • Keep masks on unless eating.
  • No hugging. Settle for waving and hand hearts to show your love.
  • No singing, please! And no shouting for that matter...

Gathering Virtually for the Holidays

Keep in-person gatherings to individual households or small groups of households that have each quarantined for 2 weeks before meeting. But if an outdoor event isn’t possible, talk to family and friends about going partially or completely virtual. Connect multiple groups in different households via an online video chat room like Skype or Zoom. It might not be ideal, but it will keep everyone as safe as possible. Plan some games or a round-robin sharing to keep everyone entertained. Maybe each person can bring something short to read or the kids can perform a short skit or song—with enough planning, a zoom event can be more fun than you might think.

COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere, so it’s up to each of us to contain the spread. We have a responsibility not just to our own households but to our larger communities. And as we have seen from weddings over the summer, one event can kick of hundreds of infections in a community wide ripple-effect and result in multiple deaths. Sp let's do our part. Of course, we need to feel love and warmth, too, but we can do so responsibly. This pandemic can’t last forever, and hopefully, soon we’ll all be ready to party again. Think about how much we will appreciate them! Stay well, everyone. And happy holidays from the Wellness team to all of you.

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11/23/2020 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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