The 2020 holiday season is fast approaching, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all a bit more stressed than usual. COVID-19 cases are rising considerably again, with the last couple of days breaking records. Small household gatherings have proven to be an important contributor, causing some government officials to issue stern warnings. So, what is the right thing to do for this holiday season? Do we host gatherings? Do we include our aging loved ones? Gatherings can be an opportunity to finally connect with and see family and friends. But this year, we need to consider how our holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep our families, friends, and communities healthy and safe. It’s difficult to give a “one-size fits all” answer, but we’ve done our best to put together some information for families to help guide your decision this year.
The CDC has provided suggestions to slow the spread of COVID-19 during small gatherings. These are not meant to replace any existing state or local regulations – but rather supplement them to try and ensure the safest gathering possible.
The lowest risk for transmission is to host virtual celebrations or to keep in-person celebrations limited to members of your own household. This includes any family, roommates, or friends that you live with or share common spaces with on a daily basis. Family members such as those returning from college are not considered part of the same household.
In-person gatherings that bring together different households pose varying levels of risk. Organizers and attendees should take steps to reduce the possibility of infection. For the full guide provided by the CDC on considerations for events and gatherings, click here. They outline the risk of COVID-19 spreading as follows:
|Lowest risk||Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.|
|More risk||Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).|
Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
|Highest risk||Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.|
There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Per the CDC, these include:
- Community levels of COVID-19
- Exposure during travel
- Location of the gathering
- Duration of the gathering
- Number and crowding of people at the gathering
- Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering
- Behaviors of attendees during the gathering
Setting strict expectations and boundaries to who can attend will be important in minimizing risk of infection. Ask your family members if they’ve been exposed, if they’ve had any symptoms, or if they’ve had a positive test recently. The following people should not attend in-person holiday gatherings if any member(s) of the household:
- Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
- Has symptoms of COVID-19
- Is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results
- May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (such as an aging loved one)
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.
Keep in mind that older adults are a vulnerable population and if you’re planning of having them attend or celebrating with them, you should be as strict as possible about who can and cannot attend. The CDC recommends that “if you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.”
Staying Connected from Afar
Here are some ideas on fun activities you can still enjoy with family and friends without having in person gatherings:
- Cooking together through Zoom: Find a family favorite recipe that everyone enjoys and set up some time to cook it together virtually! If desired, you can even add a little friendly competition to it! If you are a Homethrive member – our supportive technology is a great tool to use for this if your aging loved one isn’t comfortable using Zoom.
- Family picture sharing: In the days leading up to holiday celebrations start sharing family pictures between the whole family. Use online tools like Shutterfly or Walgreens to create photobooks and send them to the different households!
- Send letters: Who said close family members can’t also be pen pals? Receiving a letter is sure to make your loved one’s day and it’s a good reminder that just because you can’t be physically together doesn’t mean you’re any less connected.
- Make and share videos: As you’re prepping, setting up, or dancing, record small snippets and share them with family and friends.
And these are just a start! There are so many ways we can get creative and share this time of year with those we love while staying safe and healthy. A quick google search is bound to get your creative juices flowing to figure out what will work best for you and your loved ones - and of course, Homethrive and your Care Guide are here to help and support you through it all.
Additionally, Baylor College of Medicine put together a very useful checklist on how to build your own holiday bubble. They outline what steps and precautions to take as the day of a gathering approaches. Read more here.
This is a hard time for everyone – we’re all struggling with feeling isolated from the people we love, and the holidays will certainly strengthen those feelings. However, we have to keep in mind that this virus can be deadly, and odds are one Thanksgiving dinner is not worth the risk. Be creative, safe, and practice physical distancing (but not social isolation).