Story at a glance
- Staying home is still the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Still, some Americans say they are planning to gather with family over the holidays.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released guidelines for the upcoming season.
There’s an unmistakable chill in the air and, perhaps for the first time all year, it’s clear what season it is. But this holiday season brings with it a reminder of how the coronavirus pandemic has upended Americans’ lives. Gone are the crowds of shoppers in the mall and office parties, but what will take its place?
In a survey of more than 900 people on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform by Stannah, 37 percent said they will not be gathering with their family for the holidays due to COVID-19 and 44 percent have family members planning not to as well. But 32 percent said family members were pressuring them to travel or attend gatherings for the holidays — most commonly their parents, or conversely, their kids — while another 23 percent said that they had encouraged family to travel to them for the holidays.
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While friends were considered the worst violators of social distancing guidelines, 62 percent said they would have family over. But more people were comfortable maintaining boundaries with strangers than family, which can make for uncomfortable situations over the holidays. And when your family spans multiple generations, it's easy to put older family members at risk.
COVID-19 is a contagious and potentially fatal illness, especially for those with preexisting conditions and those older than 60. Staying home is still the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you're going to host or attend a small gathering, however, here are the CDC's recommendations:
- Be prepared to cancel if you're sick, showing symptoms or if you've been exposed to COVID-19
- Limit the number of attendees as much as you can. Most people in the survey said 12 is the maximum acceptable number of people who don't live together to attend a gathering. A pandemic is the perfect excuse not to invite that family member you hate hosting, without any hurt feelings. Use travel distance as a way to pare down the guest list, sticking with those who are in the area. And keep a list of contact information for everyone attending in case someone tests positive for COVID-19 afterwards
- Ask your guests to quarantine before and after the gathering — and to get tested if possible. And if their Instagram story tells you any different, let them know they're not coming.
- Encourage social distancing as much as possible. It might be too cold to be outdoors in some areas, so you'll have to get creative with your space. Instead of an adults table and a kids table this year, put everyone with those in their household — and space them out. An added bonus: fewer awkward conversations between warring relatives.
- Wear masks. Make it festive and provide everyone with themed masks! Or don't. Either way, keep your masks on when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors.
- Wash your hands — and make sure others do too. Stock up on hand sanitizer and put it in every room and keep the bathrooms open for hand washing.
- Limit the number of people handling or serving food. Whether this means a potluck, with everyone bringing their own food and drinks, or just one person in charge of serving the food, it might be a hassle, but it's better than the contact tracing nightmare you might otherwise have on your hands.
- Limit contact with shared items and clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. While the environment might prefer reusable dishes, this is the year for plastic plates and utensils. Imagine that, no dishes!
All of this comes second to your local and state guidelines, which should take precedence. Several states have strict limits on the number of people at a gathering and others are restricting travel between states.
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