Holiday Tips to Curb COVID-19 Risks

By Sarah Garcia - November 13, 2020

Fall and winter holidays traditionally center around gatherings with family and friends, and often involve travel, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn these activities could put you at an increased risk for COVID-19.

To limit the risk of being exposed to, catching or spreading the virus, keep these tips in mind when planning your holidays.

Travel

Traveling can increase your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the only way to remain risk-free, but should you decide to travel, take steps to protect yourself and others.

Drive when possible
Driving in your own car is the lowest risk type of travel, but making stops along the way can still lead to potential exposure. Wear a mask when entering public spaces, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Eat meals in the car or an outdoor space.

Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Disease Department at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Disease Department at Moffitt Cancer Center.

It’s ok to fly, but take precautions
“Air travel is safe if you are wearing a mask. It’s even safer if you are on an airline that mandates masks and keeps middle seats empty,” said Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Disease Department at Moffitt Cancer Center. A recent study from Harvard even concluded that flying is “as safe or substantially safer than the routine activities people undertake during these times.”

Check with airlines to see what additional safety precautions they are taking and book flights on less busy days and times. 

Pack a sanitizing kit
Regardless of how you choose to travel, a sanitizing kit is a great idea. Include hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or spray and extra masks (enough to last your entire trip).


Hosting or Attending Gatherings

The safest way to celebrate the Thanksgiving or winter holidays is with members of your immediate family or household. If you’re planning to spend time with those outside of your household, take steps to make the celebration safer.

Keep it small
The CDC recommends keeping your gathering as small as is necessary to be able to practice social distancing before, during and after your meal.

Wear masks
Wearing a mask will protect yourself and those around you. Wear a properly fitted mask of two or more layers over your nose and mouth. Only remove masks to drink or eat.

Take it outdoors
If weather permits, host an outdoor gathering – the open air presents less risks than indoors and provides more space for social distancing.

Protect the most vulnerable
“If one of your family members or guests is immunocompromised or at a greater risk due to age or other factors, take extra precautions to protect them,” said Greene. Give them a six-foot distance at all times, and wear masks when not enjoying a meal.

Make it virtual
For a completely safe way to “gather” with friends and family, consider a virtual celebration. Share a meal together virtually while trading recipes and stories.


Holiday Meals and Food Prep

Although there has been no evidence to date claiming that handling or eating food is associated with spreading COVID-19, it can be contracted by touching objects or surfaces. Take care to limit the risks while preparing and serving holiday meals.

Limit serving to one person
Serve food in a walk-up buffet style with one person serving one guest at a time, so multiple people are not handling serving utensils. The server and guest should wear masks.

Opt for single use dinnerware and utensils
Use disposable plates and utensil and consider individual, single servings of condiments, too.

Help guests stay safe
Have extra masks and hand sanitizer available for guests. Provide a designated space for guests to wash hands before and after the meal.


When to Stay Home or Cancel Plans

“If you or a member of your family has had a COVID-19 exposure or are experiencing symptoms, you should not host or attend any holiday gatherings. Stay home,” said Greene.

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