Stay Safe From COVID-19 This Holiday SeasonDec. 15, 2020 - Daniel Ford
For many of us, celebrating the holidays means gathering around a table with family and friends — enjoying food and the company of the people who mean the most to us (while steering clear of politics, of course).
This year, though, the holidays won’t quite be the same. The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a reality, and unfortunately there's no immediate end in sight. So, while few things seem better than taking a break from social distancing, taking off our masks and sharing a festive meal with loved ones, we must all continue to make safety a priority.
And, even though you've already heard this, it's important to remember: Right now, large gatherings are simply not safe — even with family and friends. However, avoiding holiday gatherings altogether might not be realistic for everyone.
But that doesn't mean you can't have an enjoyable, scaled-down celebration while still taking measures to be safe.
Here are tips for staying safe while celebrating this holiday season.
Plan ahead when picking up supplies
Because no holiday celebration is complete without the food, grocery stores tend to be a popular destination this time of year. Rather than running the risk of visiting a packed store, make your grocery list now and beat the crowd by avoiding peak hours. And, when you're shopping for ingredients to make that perfect holiday meal, keep in mind that maintaining social distancing is important.
When approaching fellow shoppers in an aisle or at the checkout counter, remember that six feet is probably further than you think — about two arm's lengths (or two shopping carts).
And, as an even safer way to stock up the pantry for your holiday meal, consider using your grocery store’s curbside or doorstep delivery option.
Keep your family members outdoors as much as possible
An important part of gathering in a small group during this pandemic is doing so outdoors — in your backyard, for example.
Before your family arrives, have plenty of tables and chairs set up outside. You can mingle in socially distant circles, but you'll want to have a separate table for each family household if you plan to eat during the gathering.
During your backyard gathering, make sure you have everything your family members may need readily available outside, including:
- Plastic dinnerware
- Napkins and paper towels
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant wipes
- Separate coolers with ice to keep food and drinks cold
If kids will be present, make sure there are plenty of outdoor activities so that they're not tempted to sneak inside to play video games.
Social distancing still matters around family, even if you're outdoors
Even though you’re outside and even though you’re around family, you still need to maintain social distancing.
Additionally, don't feel like wearing your cloth mask is silly when you're outdoors and social distancing. It helps protect you from catching COVID-19, and it may keep you from spreading it if you're infected and don't yet know it. Keep in mind, though, that a mask doesn't mean it's okay to break social distancing — the two are meant to work in tandem.
Avoid sharing food
While your past holiday celebrations were probably centered around sharing some delicious home-cooked meal, gatherings during a pandemic shouldn't be. In fact, it's best for each family household to bring its own food and drinks.
As an alternative, consider buying prepackaged meals and setting separate, unopened containers out at each household's socially distant table. And, make sure to remind kids that, if they want a snack, they should grab a bite from their own household's table.
Keep your family gathering short
Back in the day, it was totally safe for your holiday gathering to last as long as you wanted it to. During a pandemic, the longer you gather, the riskier things become.
There's no hard and fast rule as to how long your gathering should be — any amount of time increases your risk — but avoid letting the gathering drag on for several hours.
Catch up, laugh and enjoy one another's company — and then don't be afraid to kindly let your family know that it's time to say your goodbyes.
Stay safe by knowing the symptoms and how to get care
As you're preparing for your get-together, chances are your to-do list doesn't include having a refresher on COVID-19 symptoms. If you or someone in your household begins to experience a slight cough or runny nose, though, it can be cause for concern.
Some symptoms overlap with other common respiratory illnesses, so it's important to know how to distinguish COVID-19 from a cold, flu or allergies.
If you do have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, your first step should be to get screened virtually by one of our board-certified care providers through Houston Methodist Virtual Urgent Care. Our providers are available 24/7, even on holidays, to help determine if you need testing, as well as help you decide where to go. Many people experience only mild symptoms that can be treated at home through pain relievers, cough medications, rest and hydration.
If your symptoms are severe, such as high fever and/or severe shortness of breath, you may need to go to your nearest emergency room. If possible, call ahead to inform the emergency room staff that you're concerned you may have become infected.
Concerned you may have COVID-19?
If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.