But now, as the holiday season is here, many people hope to reconnect with their families in person. Unfortunately, health experts are still advising people to practice social distancing and to avoid large gatherings that could increase the spread of COVID-19.
There is no such thing as gathering risk-free during this pandemic; this should be clear. This is a highly contagious virus that requires people to stay vigilant at all times, and no in-person interaction is entirely safe. Wearing masks is better than bare face, social distancing is better than hugs, etc. The fewer the people, the better.
6 Foot Social Distance Rule Applies
By now, everyone is aware that to keep yourself safe in public from strangers, a 6-foot social distance rule has to be followed. During the holiday season, it should be kept in mind that your extended family, or those relatives that do not live in your household, are strangers to you in the context of spreading this disease. So, you need to apply the 6-foot social distancing rule with your relatives too.
Get Tested Beforehand
List down the people you want to invite to your house (keep it minimal!) There are certain steps you can take with your family that you can’t with strangers in public places. You can ask everyone to get tested, share their results in a group chat and only gather if all the people joining the gathering have tested negative. But don’t mistake this approach as a solution to completely eradicate the chance of the transmission of the virus as people can catch it between the day they took the test and the day they actually visit you! Furthermore, in the early stages of COVID-19 infection, tests can be negative at first, regardless of whether or not the symptoms appear.
Limit your Time
Prolonged exposure to people can increase the risk of the transmission, and according to CDC, spending 15 minutes or more with an infected person at a distance less than 6 feet is considered a close contact. So, set a time for your get-togethers. Don’t make them a day-long affair. An hour may be enough to see family--you are balancing risks and benefits.
Weather permitting, outdoor gatherings are still safer than indoors. There is a lot more space in an outdoor setting, and a study conducted in China indicated that the transmission of this virus occurred in close spaces. In fact, out of 1,245 confirmed cases, only 1 transmission occurred outside; that too in the case where social distancing wasn’t observed. The real problem, when it comes to outdoor gatherings, is the cold. Even with heaters and fire pits, it’s impossible to hold outdoor gatherings in certain parts of the country.
The simple answer is "No" to the question, “is it safe to have holiday gatherings during COVID-19?” Holidays are a season of family gatherings, and most people use this time to rekindle bonds, so it is not so simple to tell everyone to maintain social isolation. However, there are certain simple things like wearing masks, getting tested and staying away if you are positive, limiting meeting time, and weather permitting having outdoor gatherings which can help lower your risk. Also, thanks to technology, you can have virtual gatherings to avoid the spread of the disease, especially for those who are at higher risk for complications.
We wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving from the WoW Health family!