It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since the world learned about COVID-19, a novel and fast-spreading coronavirus that quickly became a worldwide pandemic. As of December 1st, more than 63 million people have become infected with the virus. Global deaths inch towards 1.5 million – with almost 20% stemming from the United States alone, where a recent surge of infections has firmly taken hold of the country’s healthcare system.
Now, the holiday season is here, and COVID-19 cases are hitting all-time highs. Public health experts believe that the increase in infections is likely to continue – or even worsen – due to the upcoming celebrations.
Still, after months of lockdowns, social distancing, and virtual gatherings, many people are understandingly eager to see their loved ones, reconnect, and regain some sense of normalcy during these trying times. If you’ve been weighing travel plans to join loved ones for the holidays, read on to find out how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep yourself, family, friends, and the community healthy during the holidays.
Safety Tips for the Holidays
First things first, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a totally COVID-safe holiday party or event. When it comes to viruses that spread through contact and respiratory droplets, the single most effective way of avoiding infection is to limit exposure by maintaining a safe distance from people who may be infected with the virus. But there are some ways to minimize risks:
Check local infection rates: Research the number and rate of infections (CDC Covid Data Tracker) in your community and the area where the holiday gathering will occur. Then, consider if it’s safer to hold, attend, or postpone it. You may also want to check if hospitals in your community or destination are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
Limit travel: Travel may increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. If you must travel, opt for driving to your destination with your household members only instead of flying or taking other forms of mass transportation.
Keep events small: The greater the number of people, the greater the risk for infection. If you are considering hosting or attending an in-person holiday gathering this year, keep the guest list short or ask the host how many people will be at the event. Many health agencies recommend limiting the number of people to 10 or fewer. However, bear in mind that the size of any holiday event should be determined based on local or state laws as well as the ability of people attending the gathering to keep a safe distance from one another.
Wear a mask: Recent studies suggest that as many as 80 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning that they don’t experience any symptoms from the disease. And because they don’t have any symptoms, they may not even know they have the virus. However, asymptomatic carriers can spread the disease just as much as people that do have symptoms. A mask that completely covers your nose and mouth serves as a barrier for keeping respiratory droplets from going into the air and infecting others. Although wearing a mask to a holiday gathering may feel strange, it is one of the most effective ways to prevent COVID-19 spread.
Other considerations if you are hosting a holiday gathering:
- Check local guidelines before planning your event.
- Choose outdoor gatherings over indoor spaces.
- Ask guests to wear a mask at all times except when eating and drinking.
- If you are holding the holiday celebration indoors, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors, if possible.
- Encourage guests to wash their hands often and provide supplies to help everyone stay healthy, such as hand sanitizer, disposable masks, and tissues.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.
- If you are holding a potluck-style gathering, encourage guests to bring their own foods and drinks. If you are serving food, have only one person serve everything to avoid several people touching communal utensils.
Other considerations if you are attending a holiday gathering:
- Stay at home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not been cleared to be around others.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) distance from people who do not live with you.
- Avoid crowded areas.
- Don’t touch your mask, eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid shouting or singing, especially indoors.
Stay safe this winter and enjoy the holidays!
Curt Hendrix, MS, CCN, CNS
Akeso Health Sciences Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Curt Hendrix, MS, CCN, CNS, has an unwavering commitment to help people with chronic health issues. Curt holds advanced degrees in chemistry and clinical nutrition and has dedicated his life to the research and development of innovative natural medicines.
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