Updated November 24, 2020

Holidays usually are a time of family and friends gathering to celebrate.  However, this season is far different from those in the past.  Should people gather or not for the holidays is a conversation happening in most households this year.  This is difficult considering many places are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.  In addition, for elderly family members, where holidays may be the only time to see their loved ones, it appears the virus is far deadlier.

Governors in several states including Washington, Oregon, and California have banned any gatherings except for immediate household or limited to no more than groups of 6.  In addition, travel has been restricted between states requiring people to self-quarantine after they return.

To be very clear, there is no such thing as a perfectly safe way for families to gather, over the holidays or otherwise. COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus, so no in-person interaction is risk-free. The CDC offers the following considerations to help manage the risk for individuals and their families, friends, and communities from COVID-19. 

These recommendations include but are not limited to:

  • Avoid areas with higher community levels of COVID-19
  • Outdoor gatherings are better than indoors
  • Shorter duration is better than longer durations
  • Masks worn at all times are better than bare faces
  • Safe Distances (preferably 6 feet apart) with people you do not live with and while eating
  • Avoid traveling long distances.  Attendees from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area
  • Avoid hugs and shaking of hands
  • Fewer people, the better

California health officials suggest restricting holiday gatherings to three households for no more than a few hours, while Colorado has a two-household limit.

Other advice if hosting a gathering include:

  • Agree and distribute guidelines with attendees prior to any gathering
  • Set up a designated hand washing station with hand sanitizer and ask everyone to use it regularly especially before and after eating.
  • Limit people around food preparation areas.  Those people handling food should wear a mask and gloves.
  • Avoid self-serve options like a buffet-style potluck, salad bar or condiments.
  • Disinfect all areas before and after eating
  • Setting up a ‘virtual dinner’ where recipes are share prior and meet via Zoom or other method.  Just ask your kids how to do this.

Please protect yourself and other this holiday season.