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5 Things to Consider Before Gathering With Family During COVID-19

June 18, 2021 - Katie McCallum

We're all ready to start spending quality time with our families again.

If you're fully vaccinated, you're more protected from COVID-19 — which provides some flexibility in regard to what you can feel safe doing again, including spending time with your family. However, you should continue to be cautious about large indoor gatherings and visiting with an unvaccinated family member — especially if he or she is high risk for severe disease.

If you're not yet vaccinated, continue to approach family gatherings with caution and consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible. The reality is that a family gathering is, unfortunately, just as unsafe as any other social gathering during this pandemic. Social distancing includes reducing close contact with people who are not a part of your household — even if he or she is a part of your extended family.

If you do decide to host a family gathering, here's how to make it as safe as possible. Or, if you're attending one, make sure whoever is hosting the gathering is taking these precautions.

Know the risk of every family member involved in the gathering

For families that are fully vaccinated, a small indoor or outdoor gathering is fairly low risk.

If there's a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated family members, you may need to consider the precautions below. While breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals are rare, they're possible. Take special caution to protect unvaccinated family members who are high risk. And, keep in mind, while young children are generally less likely to get very sick from COVID-19, this doesn’t mean they’re immune.

If you're not yet vaccinated, continue to approach any social gathering with caution, especially if you are high risk for developing severe COVID-19. And know that you can easily spread COVID-19 even if you don't know you have it. Take extra precaution if you are unvaccinated and live or care for someone who is at higher risk.

Lastly, vaccinated or not, be sure everyone attending is comfortable with the setup of the gathering.

High-risk family members should attend virtually

Anyone can get COVID-19, but some people are more likely to end up in the hospital, or even the intensive care unit (ICU).

If you have a family member who is unvaccinated and considered high risk, use digital tools that can help your family member gather virtually. In addition, if someone in your household is unvaccinated and high risk, avoid hosting or attending a family gathering, as this could put him or her at greater risk.

Additionally, we're still learning how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are in people who are immunocompromised. Your doctor can help you understand what's risky and what's not. Still, if you or someone you love is vaccinated but has a weakened immune system, consider offering a virtual option for gathering with the family.

Keep the gathering small

If your entire family is vaccinated, you can feel safe gathering as a small group indoors or outdoors.

You can also feel safe gathering with a small amount of unvaccinated family members indoors or outdoors, but that doesn't mean they're safe. Indoor gatherings are still risky for those who aren't vaccinated, especially if he or she is high risk.

Additionally, gathering in large group is still risky, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

Make it a backyard gathering if unvaccinated family members are attending

Indoor gatherings are still risky for people who aren't vaccinated.

If unvaccinated family members will be in attendance, plan for an outdoor gathering where you and your family can stay isolated from other people. A family backyard is a great example, but a picnic at a large park would work as well. Just be sure you can spread out and have plenty of space. Keep in mind that dining on a patio is still considered risky for those who are unvaccinated.

If you're unvaccinated and do decide to gather indoors, or while you are making a trip inside to use the restroom, be sure to wear a mask, social distance and keep your time spent indoors short. 

Avoid sharing food

While your past family gatherings were probably always centered around sharing some delicious home-cooked meal, gatherings that include unvaccinated attendees shouldn't be.

In fact, it's best for those who are unvaccinated to bring their own food and drinks.