10 Tips for Safer Holiday Gatherings in 2020

Thanksgiving is this week! I can already feel the anxiety ramping up as people begin to plan holiday gatherings in 2020. But I compiled a list of 10 tips to help you create safe gatherings this holiday season. It’s not gonna be like last year, but it can still be fun and family-focused.

1. Consider community risk. Be aware of the local infection rates at the holiday destination as well where guests ae coming from. Consider who you are bringing together and if there is local guidance in effect regarding social gatherings.

2. Avoid exposed contacts. Ask your guests not to attend if they have had close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, if they are feeling ill, are waiting on COVID-19 test results, or if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. As a healthcare provider, I am daily exposed to those with COVID-19, however consider the precautions that each person is taking to limit exposures.

3. Avoid an open house celebration. Keep your celebration an “invite-only event” realizing that the larger the gathering, the greater the risk of spreading the virus. This year’s celebration might be smaller, but it will be safer. If you ignore the size of your gathering, you’re ignoring a basic fact about how the virus is spread.

4. Consider the duration of the celebration. The longer the celebration, the more risk of spreading the virus. This information helps your guests know what to expect and how to plan.

5. Describe your celebration to guests.  Many of your guests will appreciate knowing in advance what will be expected of them. It also provides your invited guests the opportunity to decide whether or not they feel comfortable attending. Explain what precautions you will be taking and allow those invited to assess their comfort level with those actions. Remember to respect their decision if they decline.

6. Consider buying some items store-bought. If you’re hosting a small gathering this year, limiting the cooks in the kitchen is vital. So if the entire meal is resting on your shoulders, take some shortcuts. Buy store-bought dinner rolls or a pumpkin pie from Costco. Don’t think that every item on the menu needs to be homemade. Just try to limit who is preparing the food. The less people in the kitchen, the better!

7. Minimize indoor time, if possible. If you are lucky enough to be in an area where the climate allows, think about having the celebration outside and minimize time spent indoors. If you are in a region of the country where the weather does not allow for an outside celebration, give serious thought about airflow and ventilation in your home. Ventilation, wearing a mask, and social distancing are three of the most powerful strategies to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

8. Limit crowding. Think about how to serve food and drinks to minimize lines or crowded dinner tables. Have one designated person serve the food at the buffet. How you arrange this process will depend on the size of the crowd and the space available, but the goal is to avoid a situation with people in close proximity.

9. Use technology. Think about incorporating technology into your celebration to connect with those who cannot attend. A structured video call will be more enjoyable than an open-ended Zoom get together. Scheduling a time and length for the video call allows participants to continue to organize and enjoy the celebration at their home. With a little planning, it can be a beautiful thing and will reinforce the meaning of your holiday!

10. Limit expectations. Do not go into this holiday season expecting it to be the same as last year or even years past. This year is unique and unprecedented.

How are you taking precautions this holiday season?

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