Holidays conjure up images of the family gathered around the table, of closeness and togetherness, and of celebration. This year, a lot of families are left wondering how to celebrate with the specter of COVID-19 looming. While the holidays may not be exactly as normal, there are ways to ensure that your holiday season will be full of love, laughter, and fun, while also being safe.
According to the CDC, the spread of COVID-19 is worsening. They have an extensive list of considerations on their site, which are very comprehensive and detailed. One of their suggestions is to check the number of cases in the area where you will be celebrating. If you are in North Carolina, you can check on your county here. The state of NC has also developed a comprehensive list of recommendations for Thanksgiving on their DCDHHS website. They also recommend getting a flu shot. Do not host or attend gatherings with anyone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
The best way to stay safe with COVID-19 is to not get together in person at all, but if you must gather, keep gatherings small. The members of your household plus your COVID-19 bubble (friends or family members that are committed to limiting contact with others outside of the bubble) are the safest people to share holidays with. The best practices for a virus-free holiday season include:
- Get a COVID test 3-4 days before your gathering
- Participants voluntarily quarantining for 14 days before gatherings
- Keeping those who have been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 home
- Short guest lists (household plus bubble)
- No hugging, kissing, handshakes, or other physical contact
- Wearing a mask when you are not eating
- Celebrate outdoors, as the spread is lessened outside
- If you must gather indoors, open windows to increase air circulation
- Washing your hands often and use hand sanitizer
- Use paper towels instead of hand towels
- Have one person serve the food
- Use disposable dinnerware
- Limit alcohol intake as inhibitions lower after drinking
Certain people should not take part in holiday gatherings at all. Those include anyone:
- If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19
- If you are waiting for COVID-19 viral test results
- If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- If you are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- If you are at risk for severe illness due to age or underlying conditions
If you cannot be with those you love due to high risk factors, there are a few things you can do to make the holidays feel more like normal. If you have specific holiday traditions, like certain recipes or a round of expressing thankfulness, keep those. They can give the holidays a sense of normalcy. You can Zoom or FaceTime with relatives and talk as you share the holiday. Do not hesitate to reach out to your primary physician or a mental health provider if you are experiencing feelings of loss or sadness around the holidays. They are often a trying time even during normal circumstances, and even more so this year.
UNC Lenoir Health Care is 100% committed to helping you and your family stay healthy and happy not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. For more information on how we are keeping you safe, please visit our UNC Lenoir’s Response to COVID-19 page. For more information on UNC Health’s initiatives to keep out patients and the community safe, visit our Coronavirus Resource page.