Celebrating Safely: How to keep you, your family, and your community healthy this holiday season

By Mel Meyer, MD Emergency Medicine, Chief of Staff at SageWest Health Care

The final two months of the year are traditionally filled with a number of opportunities to celebrate with family, friends, and co-workers. Of course, 2020 has been anything but a traditional year, thanks in no small part to the ongoing pandemic. As we continue to fight COVID-19 and work to slow the spread in our community, it’s a good idea to take a moment and rethink how we celebrate during the upcoming holiday season.

Holiday gatherings
As you plan your holidays, it’s important to first remember that in-person celebrations with only members of your own household or virtual celebrations using online video apps like Zoom and FaceTime pose the lowest risk for infection and spread of COVID-19. Other in-person gatherings pose varying levels of risk, depending on a variety of factors including:

  • The current number of COVID-19 cases both in our own community and in many communities where potential out-of-town guests may be traveling from;
  • Indoor versus outdoor locations (indoors poses a greater risk);
  • The number of guests (more people = more risk); and
  • The diligence of guests in practicing safe behaviors before and during the celebration.

If you are planning an in-person event, it’s a good idea to keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you’re creating as safe an environment as possible:

  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible.
  • Hold your celebration outside if you can. If your event is indoors, keep windows and doors open as the weather allows you to help with ventilation.
  • Provide supplies like extra masks, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content, and tissues to help your guests practice safe behaviors when gathered together (or encourage attendees to bring their own).
  • Consider asking guests to wear masks when not actively eating and drinking.
  • Ask your guests to practice safe behaviors for 14 days before gathering, including avoiding contact with people outside of their households.

Holiday travel
Many of us are accustomed to traveling during the holiday season, whether it’s a family celebration or a getaway. While travel does increase the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk and help protect yourself and others while traveling, including:

  • Wearing a face covering that covers your mouth and nose in public spaces;
  • Practicing social distancing by keeping a minimum of six feet between yourself and others;
  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren’t readily available);
  • Staying away from those who are sick;
  • Staying home if you are sick; and
  • Refraining from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

It’s also important to note that if you have COVID-19, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or are at increased risk for severe illness resulting from COVID-19, you should not attend in-person celebrations or travel.

Like many things this year, the 2020 holiday season will look a bit different and will be a bit more complicated to navigate. By following these tips, we can celebrate as safely as possible while ensuring that we’re doing what we can to defeat COVID-19, protect our health and make our community – and our holidays – as healthy as possible.


For more tips on celebrating safely this holiday season, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.


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