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Safely celebrating the holidays during a pandemic

Written By: Laura Frnka-Davis | Updated: November 12, 2020
Holidays and COVID-19

The coronavirus does not take a holiday. An expert weighs in on how to celebrate safely.

Everything this past year has looked different thanks to COVID-19. The holiday season will be no exception.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 will still have a presence, and we will need to be vigilant during the most festive time of the year,” said Karen Vigil, MD, associate professor of infectious disease at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “I would strongly encourage families to think about alternative plans for this year as we continue to deal with the pandemic.”

Karen J. Vigil, MD
Karen J. Vigil, MD

Celebrate safely

There are several low-risk activities you can participate in and still celebrate the season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems the following activities as safe ways to help minimize the spread of the virus:

  • Preparing a small dinner with only people who reside in your household
  • Finding a way to deliver food to family and neighbors that does not involve contact, particularly those at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19
  • Utilizing technology and having a virtual dinner party with friends and family
  • Shopping online sales instead of in-person on the day after Thanksgiving
  • Watching sporting events and movies from home

Get-togethers are not recommended

If you can’t avoid a gathering with people outside of your household, it’s recommended that all participants strictly avoid contact with people outside of their household for 14 days prior to the gathering. Before deciding to do so, you also need to consider the rate of infection in your particular community.

Should you decide to move forward, outdoor events are safer than ones held inside because of ventilation and airflow. You should also shorten the length of your gathering, limit the number of people in attendance, consider where participants are coming from, and evaluate their behavior. If participants are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, they pose a risk to others in attendance.

Stop the spread

If you or anyone you live with is under the weather, you should not plan to host an event or attend an in-person gathering.

“If you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, you should forgo in-person plans and participate in celebrations virtually,” said Vigil. “Your friends and loved ones will understand and will thank you later for putting your health (and theirs) first.”

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are waiting for results, or at increased risk of severe illness, you should plan on staying home.

Home for the holidays

The CDC says that traveling increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. Consider setting aside some time for video chats to catch up with family and friends.

“This year’s holiday season will be tough on many because of all these restrictions. We will miss our family and friends, and many of our traditions,” said Vigil. “But we must remain cautious and keep our guards up to save lives as we continue to deal with this pandemic.”

Visit the CDC for more guidance on holiday celebrations. For more resources on the coronavirus, visit our information center.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.