No matter what you celebrate during the winter months, things just aren’t going to be the same this year. There’s no way to ignore or overlook the coronavirus pandemic (though some may try), and even if you personally don’t want to alter your approach to the holidays, the world itself is a very different place right now.
There’s no right answer for how anyone should approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and every other cause for celebration. There are, however, things we know about the risks of large, indoor gatherings and ways to mitigate those risks.
So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways you can stay safe and healthy during this upcoming holiday season.
Keep it small
The holidays are the holidays because it’s the one time of year where we’re most likely to see our extended family and connect with old friends. There are probably quite a few of your favorite relatives that you only see at Thanksgiving, for example.
With the pandemic only powering up, however, the safest possible course of action would be to abstain from gathering with anyone outside of your immediate family (that is, the people you live with every day).
That option kinda stinks, to be honest, but it’s the option that comes with the least amount of risk. The less you expose yourself to people outside of your immediate circle, the less likely it is that you’ll catch and spread COVID-19. Luckily, you can replace some of your normal holiday interaction with video conferencing.
The maximum incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days. That means it can take up to 14 days before someone who’s infected may show any symptoms, during which time the infected carrier can spread the virus to others.
If you’re planning on gathering with friends and family it’s important that everyone commit to an adequate quarantine before coming together, especially if you plan on doing indoor activities with no masks. It only takes one COVID positive individual to start the spread.
Fortunately, an effective quarantine doesn’t mean hiding in a bunker for two weeks. Quarantining means avoiding risky activities, like visiting bars, restaurants, and gyms without a mask, staying home as much as possible, maintaining social distancing when doing activities outdoors, and wearing a mask when you do need to interact with individuals outside of your immediate circle. Attendees should get a COVID test at the end of quarantine. If the results are negative, you’ve done your part!
If you do want to gather with individuals outside of your immediate circle and you can’t quarantine, one way to effectively reduce the potential spread of the virus is by gathering outside and maintaining social distancing.
Of course, the obvious issue here is that we’re talking about winter holidays and, in most places in the United States, it gets a bit cold and/or covered in snow during the holiday season. But assuming you’re in a climate that allows for outdoor activities year-round, it’s really the only way skip the first two steps and stay safe.
“With multiple high-risk family members, we’re decking out our back patio with a tree and decorations and having multiple Christmas celebrations with each smaller unit of parents and brothers and sisters,” says David Hall, a member of the IT team at Money Management International and Texas resident. “Outdoors, masked, social distanced, and smaller groups…and we get more intimate time with each unit, as opposed to a packed house and pandemonium all at once.”
Ultimately, how you choose to celebrate is your call, but for the sake of your family and your community, do your best to stay safe.