Remain Safe During Family Gatherings this Holiday Season


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in-person gatherings can pose varying levels of risk. Hosts and attendees should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size and use of mitigation strategies. In addition to the guidelines offered by the CDC, Global Travel Plus shares a few mitigation strategies that will help you and your family stay safe and healthy during the holiday season.

Limit the number of households coming together

Social gatherings are a risk in and of itself as you risk exposing yourself to people that may not be following the social distancing guidelines as strictly as your family does. You can reduce this risk by limiting the number of guests you invite.

Every household within your extended family has a different risk of exposure to coronavirus. For instance, if someone in your family works in a place where he or she frequently interacts with people who are sick, like a hospital, or where social distancing is challenging, like a grocery store, his or her risk of exposure to COVID-19 is likely higher. If a family member has just traveled or dines at restaurants regularly, his or her risk of exposure may be higher as well. Therefore, if possible, you may want to invite just one other household and speak with them beforehand about their social distancing habits.


Host outdoor celebrations

Weather permitting, it is best to hold small gatherings outdoors as it allows guests to follow social distancing guidelines. Before your family arrives, have plenty of tables and chairs set up outside and ensure that they are about six feet apart. You can mingle in socially distant circles, but you will want to have a separate table for each household if you plan to eat and take off masks during the gathering.

Another important step before the guests arrive is to make sure you have everything your family members may need readily available, so you do not have to contaminate common surfaces in your home or an indoor area to go and grab supplies. Some of the essentials you should consider including on each table are:

  • Disposable dinnerware
  • Napkins and paper towels
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Packed snacks or lids for all open food
  • Separate coolers with ice to keep food and drinks cold

Most U.S. states do not have the luxury to enjoy a 70-degree weather during the holiday season. If you still want to organize an outdoor gathering, think about making your party “BYO Blankets”, invest in patio heaters or fire pits and serve hot cider or mulled wine to warm up your guests.

While you will want your family members to be outdoors as much as possible, nature’s call is inevitable. Limit the risk of your guests touching potentially contaminated surfaces inside your home by making sure your guests know exactly how to get to your restroom. You should also remember to swap out your hand towel for paper towels, so you and your guests are not sharing a hand towel and can dispose of the towel straight away.


Avoid sharing food

While your past family celebrations were probably always centered around sharing some delicious home-cooked meal, gatherings during a pandemic should not be. Some ways to reduce the risk of exposure include:

  • Ask each household to bring their own food and drinks to the gathering and eat it at their own table
  • Prepare food with a mask and gloves on, packing food into air-sealed bags, and placing the food at each household’s table prior to the event.
  • Order pre-packaged meals and set separate, unopened containers out at each household’s socially distant table.
  • Serve freshly cooked poultry or vegetables directly off of the grill or barbecue pit. It is best to have only one person from each family fill a platter for his or her entire table to maintain distance from other households.
  • Remind the children about social distancing rules. If they want a snack, encourage them to grab from the snacks at their own household’s table.


Reduce the time of exposure

During this pandemic, research shows that the longer you gather, the riskier the gathering becomes as there is a higher chance of exposure. Although there is no preset rules about how long a gathering should be — any amount of time increases your risk — so the best way to mitigate risk is to avoid letting the gathering drag on for several hours.

After many months of not seeing your close family and friends, it may be a sentimental moment to finally gather and catch up with everyone. You can even create a hand gesture that does not require touching to show how much you missed seeing the family member or friend. After you have caught up and had your fun, this is not the time to be shy about kindly letting your family know that it’s time to say goodbye.


Be cautious about high-risk family members

Anyone can get infected with COVID-19, however, the virus affects each individual differently than the next. Not much information is available about why certain people are affected differently, but some people are more likely to end up in the hospital, or even the intensive care unit (ICU).

If you have a family member who is considered high risk, keep in mind that he or she is likely taking extra precautions to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and arrangements should be made to help them. High-risk family members can also choose to participate in an event using digital tools instead of attending physically and their efforts should be appreciated nonetheless.

The same principal applies to members of your household and if someone in your household is high risk, avoid hosting a family gathering at your home, as this could put him or her at greater risk. You should also avoid hosting an event if you have recently traveled, have been around large crowds, or may have suspicion about being infected with the virus.

Family members at highest risk include those who are over the age of 65, are immunocompromised or have one or more of the following underlying health conditions: heart disease, liver disease, chronic kidney disease, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, and moderate-to-severe asthma.


Posted: 11/20/2020 9:00:00 AM