It is okay to be the “villain” this year during the holiday season. Do not feel bad about saying no – you’re doing the right thing! Wearing your mask and social distancing helps stop the spread of the coronavirus and it is not unreasonable to suggest skipping traditional gatherings. I know that we all want to spend the holidays together and that this is hard, but in 2020 our main priority must be to keep those around safe us and stop the spread of COVID-19.
For this holiday season, it is important to do your own research, as different states, countries, and regions could have more restrictive guidelines and requirements based on the severity and levels of coronavirus cases. You must understand the risks and know how to stay safe Using recommendations and tips from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), here is a quick guide for celebrating the holidays safely during a global pandemic.
This year has not been easy, so before we discuss considerations and tips for spending holidays with others, let’s talk about stress and mental health during the holidays. Although we understand that social distancing is necessary, it does not make it any less hard to be isolated. We have all missed milestones like graduation, birthdays, and family events. It is reasonable and natural that many of us have felt stress, anxiety, and uncertainty throughout the year.
If you are feeling stressed, acknowledge those feelings because they are valid. Reach out if you feel like you need help or are lonely. Talk about your concerns.
If you feel stressed, try:
- Take a break.
- Try breathing, mediation, or yoga.
- Get some good sleep.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Your mental health is important to your wellbeing and overall health. If you are seeking help, the CDC has a list of free and confidential resources here.
The safest option for attending a gathering this holiday season is not to attend the gathering! Surprising, I know. Virtual gatherings and gatherings with just your own household are your safest options and pose the lowest risk of spreading the virus.
While it is recommended that you do not attend gatherings outside your household unit, here are some considerations and tips on how to be safe if you do decide to attend a gathering that brings people together from outside your household.
- Check infection rates in your area and stay home if you are not feeling well.
- Don’t attend large gatherings. Gatherings with 15, 20, 25, or 30 people are a big no!
- Stay 6 feet apart from people outside your household, so that means no hugging and no direct contact!
- Avoid crowded areas.
- Wear your mask when you are not eating or drinking.
- Avoid singing and shouting.
- Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer.
- Limit contact with surfaces and shared items. This means avoid potluck-style gatherings and serving food to those that you do not live with.
For more information and recommendations on attending a gathering visit the CDC’s website here.
Hosting a Gathering
If you are hosting a gathering with people outside of your household, the same guidelines for attending a gathering apply. However, I’ll remind you of the things you should keep in mind with some additional considerations.
- Ask your guests to plan ahead and avoid outside contact with other households.
- Communicate with your guests about safety guidelines.
- Keep the gathering as small as possible!
- Host the event outside or open windows and doors for ventilation.
- Require guests to wear masks when not eating and drinking.
- Limit people gathering in areas where food is being prepared and avoid potluck-style gatherings.
- Encourage guests not to yell or shout.
- Stock the bathroom with single-use towels.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces often and when feasible. Also, use gloves when cleaning!
- Treat your pets as humans of another household. As loveable as they are, have guests keep their distance!
For more information and recommendations on hosting gatherings visit the CDC’s website here.
Traveling most likely increase your chances of being imposed to or spreading COVID-19. If you are considering traveling, the CDC recommends that you stay home or postpone the trip. It is important to make the best decision for you and your family when it comes to traveling during this pandemic. However, if you are traveling, I have a few tips and considerations for you.
If you are traveling by bus or train, you may have to spend time in terminals and crowded areas as well. The lack of social distancing in those spaces also increases your chance of being exposed to the virus. Additionally, if you are traveling by car, stopping for gas, food, and the restroom puts you at risk.
Questions to consider before traveling:
- Have you been exposed to the virus?
- Do you or someone in your household have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19?
- Is your community experiencing a high level of cases?
- Also, are the cases high in the place you are traveling to?
- Are you able to limit your contact with those outside your household?
If you are traveling:
- Do not travel when you are sick! If you are feeling unwell, stay home!
- Consider taking a Covid test one to three days before you go. However, you must realize that testing does not guarantee that traveling will be safe.
- Get your flu shot.
- Check travel restrictions.
- Pack extra masks and hand sanitizers for your trip. I also suggest washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer when touching surfaces!
- Bring wipes and other cleaning supplies, including sealable plastic bags.
- Pack water and food if restaurants are closed.
After you travel:
- Look out for Covid symptoms and get a test 3 to 5 days after traveling.
- Keep distance from those you did not travel with.
- Wear your mask.
- Avoid being around those who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus for at a minimum of 14 days. Remember, some people who are infected with COVID-19 and do not ever develop symptoms. So, you can spread the virus without knowing.
If you contract COVID-19
If you are exposed to COVID-19 while attending a gathering or traveling for the holidays, stay home, social distance, and self-isolate for 14 days. Most importantly, stay away from others who are at an increased risk of contracting the virus. If you are able to get tested, get tested. When quarantining, monitor your health. Watch for symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and a temperature of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you feel symptoms, isolate immediately, and keep track of your symptoms! Contact your public health authorities or healthcare provider. Also, make sure you research guidelines for medical care and protocols in your region and area. If you have mild symptoms, hopefully, you will be able to recover at home. If you are experiencing trouble breathing, persistent chest pains, inability to wake up or stay awake, or confusion, you should seek medical attention immediately. Several other emergency warning signs should prompt you to seek medical attention as well.
I know this holiday season is very different than what we most likely expected, but I hope this holiday guide is helpful for you and your loved ones. Remember, research is important when it comes to considering and understanding the risks and making good decisions this holiday season. I hope you and your families stay safe, happy, and healthy! Happy holidays!
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