The holiday season is known for togetherness, parties, and family gatherings. After two years of being isolated due to COVID, people are unsure about gathering for celebrations. Even with vaccines and effective treatments, COVID remains a threat. So how do we balance holiday socializing while protecting vulnerable loved ones from infection?
This article shares tips from experts on staying safe during holiday gatherings this winter. We’ll provide tips for reducing virus spread while still creating meaningful connections. You’ll learn smart strategies for gathering in ways that balance fun and safety this season. Let’s discover how we can finally enjoy comfortable, responsible holiday socializing again!
Get Vaccinated and Get Boosters
Dr. Fauci, the White House medical advisor, says it’s crucial for everyone to get vaccinated and boosted before the holidays. Boosting the immunity of vulnerable populations is important. This includes the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Getting vaccinated lowers the severity of infection, the chance of going to the hospital, and the spread to others. Check if guests have received the latest COVID boosters for the new variants of fall. Vaccination protects the whole gathering and is critical for safe socializing.
Mask Indoors When Not Eating or Drinking
According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, wearing a mask indoors at holiday gatherings stops germs from spreading. N95, KN95, or KF94 masks are high quality and filter out over 90% of particles and viruses. These masks keep your airways safe and prevent infected exhalations.
Keep masks on when mingling, opening gifts, taking photos, etc. together indoors. Briefly remove masks only to eat or sip drinks, then immediately put them back on. Masking allows for safer indoor holiday fun than going completely maskless. Just avoid activities like singing or yelling, which expel more viral particles.
Limit Indoor Gathering Numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say smaller indoor gatherings are safer. It’s tempting to have everyone, but it’s better to be cautious. Restrict indoor holiday guest lists to 10 people or fewer when possible, suggests chief medical advisor Dr. Cameron Wolfe. This allows more spacing while eating and socializing.
Host smaller group meals across multiple gatherings instead of huge ones if needed. For religious services, choose virtual options or attend less-populated times to limit virus exposure. Keep groups intimate indoors and save the big parties for outdoor spaces.
Take Rapid Tests Before Gathering
Experts advise requesting all attendees to take a rapid COVID test within 24 hours before gathering. They should also share their negative results. This screens out many contagious yet asymptomatic carriers. Consider providing free test kits to guests beforehand to remove barriers to testing.
Asking everyone to check negative rapid test results isn’t foolproof, but it reduces the risk of an unknown virus at your gathering. Just be aware that rapid tests are less sensitive with new variants. But screening guests via same-day negatives provides an important safeguard before mingling indoors.
Host Gatherings Outdoors When Possible
According to Dr. Celine Gounder, outdoor holiday celebrations are safer than indoor ones. Open air circulation dramatically reduces coronavirus transmission risk compared to enclosed indoor spaces. If the weather is good, you can eat, exchange gifts, and socialize on balconies, patios, backyards, or in outdoor tents.
Space seating at outdoor tables rather than packing together too. If indoors, increase ventilation by opening doors or windows and using HEPA air filters. Being outdoors mitigates exposure all around for a jolly and safer good time.
Ask about Symptoms and Recent Exposure
Before the gathering, ask guests to watch for COVID symptoms and ask if they’ve been near infected people. While symptoms can’t rule out asymptomatic spread, they flag higher-risk contagious people.
Watch for coughing, sore throat, congestion, fever, GI upset, or loss of smell or taste. If someone has symptoms or has been exposed, ask them to join virtually instead of in person. Having an uncomfortable conversation is important to spot warning signs that could harm the entire group.
The holidays shouldn’t mean choosing between health and togetherness. Follow these tips to balance safety with meaningful social connections. To protect against COVID-19, get vaccinated and get boosters. Limit indoor guest lists and take rapid tests. Wear masks indoors and consider hosting outdoor gatherings. With some adaptations, we can come together while also protecting our most vulnerable. Don’t isolate out of fear this season. Just celebrate smart by planning lower-risk gatherings. This holiday, cherish seeing loved ones again—safely and responsibly.