CDC Guidelines for Holiday Gatherings
“COVID fatigue” is real: the idea that we are tired of being cooped up in our houses, not allowed to gather, having to be careful to avoid spreading the coronavirus and worried about the future. But COVID-19 is also real, and the threat of it is not abating in the next few weeks. The Johns Hopkins Medical Center’s Coronavirus Resource Center reports that we’re quickly approaching 62 million cases worldwide, over 13 million of those in the U.S. Over 1.4 million people have died worldwide, over 265,000 of those deaths have been in the U.S. And Friday, November 27, marked the 25th day in the row where the U.S. reported over 100,000 new cases, according to CNN.
So, it’s worth considering limiting the amount of people who you will celebrate with this holiday season. The CDC advises that the lowest risk celebrations are with those who live in your household. Your household refers to people who live in your housing unit, whether or not they are family members. The CDC notes that, in-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.
Here are a few things to think about if you are having a gathering with people from different households:
- Where are they coming from? What is the infection rate in the city or towns where your guests live?
- How much exposure your guests will have to other people when they travel, particularly if they’re taking mass transit.
- Where is the gathering taking place? Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- How long will people be there? Obviously the longer the event, the greater the risk.
- How many people will be there, and how big is the space? Is it even possible for people to maintain a 6 feet distance?
- Have the people you’ve invited been observing social distancing guidelines? People who have not been respecting CDC guidelines pose more risk to your guests than those who have been careful.
It’s a good idea to encourage guests to wear masks other than when they’re eating or drinking, and to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures. While there is encouraging news about COVID vaccines, they won’t be approved and widely available during this Christmas season, but hopefully Christmas 2021 will see things go back to normal.