OPINION: Celebrating holidays while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines

It’s almost that time of year again. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are approaching, and that means traveling, spending time with family, going home and generally being social. But how are we going to celebrate our beloved holidays during a global pandemic? There are a few ways that families can still celebrate together, but they most certainly will not be traditional. 

If the weather cooperates, family gatherings should be held outside and accompanied by an outdoor heater, if needed. Our holiday celebrations would be safer and more practical if we all could gather and eat outside. Outside gatherings provide a larger space to allow social distancing and can prevent the spread of COVID-19. If the weather is too cold and family members wish to go inside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends opening up the windows in your house to create some air circulation. Also, encourage attendees to adhere to regulations set by the CDC, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, to lessen the possibility that one of your guests could spread the virus to other guests.

Keeping the guest list short is another smart thing to do, but some people, myself included, come from big families with 20+ cousins. But limit this year’s celebrations to members of the immediate family. If you choose to invite more people than just immediate family members, skip the normal greetings, like hugs and kisses, and make sure to stay six feet away from everyone who does not live in your household. If possible, try to seat separate groups at different tables or areas when eating. 

The CDC suggests taking the proper steps to avoid spreading the virus if you decide to host a family gathering during the holidays. This includes cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic areas, such as the kitchen, living spaces and bathrooms. Supply hand sanitizer and encourage frequent handwashing, and remove items such as hand towels and serving utensils that are likely to encourage cross-contamination. When serving food, have one person dish out the food to everyone. This will avoid communal serving utensils and buffet-style eating, and reduce the chance of spreading germs. 

Although sometimes unpopular, masks are essential to family gatherings during this time. According to the CDC, if everyone attending wore a mask at all times, other than when eating and drinking, the likelihood of spreading the virus would decrease significantly. The more people wearing masks at gatherings, the better. A good rule of thumb is that if you are not able to stay socially distant at your family gathering, you must put on your mask.

This holiday season is quite unusual and a learning experience for everyone. The best thing we can do is adhere to the CDC regulations for COVID-19 to help stop the spread of the virus. Our holidays this year may be different than in years past, but that does not make them any less special.

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