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Rethink Your Holiday Celebration Plans This Year

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
covid and the holidays

This year we have to think about the holidays much differently than we have in the past.

The best scenario and the safest scenario is to celebrate the holidays only with those with whom we live. I know that’s hard to hear.

But I think everybody knows that in the last few weeks, the numbers – not only here in Cuyahoga County, but across the country – are approaching levels that are very, very serious. And so, it may be time to rethink our plans. And, again, the safest way to do this is to stay apart.

For some of my family I have said, “I’m not sharing the holidays with you this year. It isn’t because I don’t love you. It’s because I do love you.”

Start Preparing Two Weeks Before

If you really feel it’s necessary to join your family and friends for the holidays, keep your gathering as small as possible. We don’t want lots of people living together for days on end who aren’t normally household contacts.

The other thing that we really need to have people consider seriously is, can you quarantine for 14 days before you see your family? I know that’s a lot to ask, and it may not be possible.

People really need to be serious about thinking within the next two weeks, what is it that I really need to do? The things you really need to do are to go to the grocery store or go to work. Perhaps some of you have children who need to go to school, or need to go to the doctor. So you need to be on your game when you’re doing them. Limit all of your other activities to only essential activities, if you can.

That means when you’re outside your house, don’t spend time with anyone when you’re not masked and they’re not masked. You’ll want to think differently about when you’re at work or when you’re at school and maybe avoid having lunch with your work colleagues for the next couple of weeks.

At Your Gathering

If you do decide to host a gathering, as awkward as it is, you all should be wearing masks, and you should be socially distancing if the people who are in your home are not regular family members. I know that will seem odd, but it’s what we have to do so that we don’t get to a point where everything is shut down.

Instead of having people sleep at your house, have them stay at a hotel, so that at least you’re not together all of the time.

You may want to consider social distancing at the table. We all love being around the table, but this year, our table needs to be a little bit bigger to keep each other safe. As you’re waiting for somebody to bring out the salad, keep your mask on and only take your mask off when you’re actually eating. That’s because the more people are masked, the less transmission there is.

Rather than serving the meal family-style, assign someone to be the server and another to assist. Have one person hold the serving dish and the other person spoon out portions to every plate as they go around the table. Or set up a buffet and have someone serve the food on the buffet.

For the football lovers, consider taking the TV outside, start a fire in the fire pit if you have one, throw some blankets on and enjoy a football game in the elements as if you were in the stadium. If you do need to come inside, then keep a window open and make sure you are still social distanced. Keep your mask on and refrain from screaming. I know it’s hard, but the more you do things like scream or shout or sing, the more force you are using with your breath – and the farther you can spread those little molecules of virus particles.

High-Risk Situations

It might be tempting to get a COVID-19 test, then go ahead with plans if the results are negative. That’s not completely safe, however. That test only represents a moment in time. If you’ve had a negative result today, tomorrow it might be positive after the virus has had time to build up in your body. Other guidelines:

  • If you’re sick, don’t go to someone’s house.
  • If you’re a host and you are sick, you should cancel your gathering; then make care packages for your guests and arrange for a contactless pickup.
  • If you’ve been exposed to someone within the last two weeks who you know has COVID-19, don’t go to someone’s house or have guests at yours.
  • If you’ve undergone a COVID-19 test because you were exposed to the virus and are awaiting results, stay home.
  • If the people who you are going to be visiting or the people in your household are immunocompromised or very elderly, keep your group as small as possible.

Keep It All in Perspective

This year, we need people to realize that what’s happening now isn’t going to happen forever. This is one small period in all of our lives. This is one Thanksgiving or one Christmas. It’s really important that we get our priorities right this year and think about what is important to us.

The holidays are important, but we cannot underestimate that virus-containing droplet. When the mask is down, those droplets can make their way into the environment. If you happen to be standing within two feet, then it will be within your environment. And if you’re not masked, the chances of you getting that droplet in your nose, mouth or eyes is going to be far greater than if you are wearing a mask.

It’s really what we have to do this year. Remember, it isn’t because I don’t love you. It’s because I do love you.

Dr. Hoyen is Director, Pediatric Infection Control, at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.


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