The holidays are about spending time with your family and loved ones. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we’ll celebrate holidays for a long time. Usually, we’ll hold large gatherings at our homes for the holidays and hug and kiss the family that we haven’t seen in a while. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t ended yet, so we must remain cautious when holding gatherings for the holiday season. If you feel uncertain about what you can do to lower the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, here are five precautions you can take to protect your friends and family who may be vulnerable.

Discuss Your Expectations

It would be best to share your thoughts and feelings with your family and friends about the safety precautions you want to follow during gatherings. That way, there will be no surprises when it’s time for the get-together. If you’re going to include more than your immediate family at your in-person celebration, talk about their exposure and make decisions to reduce the risk of spreading infections. Ask anyone who lives outside of your household to be conscientious about wearing masks and social distancing before getting together. Also, consider making a plan to isolate and test a person who has new COVID-19 symptoms if this comes up during the gathering or while traveling. It may also be helpful to collect your guests’ contact information if you need to do contact tracing.

Follow the Safety Guidelines

You may feel like you don’t have to take precautions around your family. It may feel awkward at first. However, following the guidelines is the best way to keep everyone safe. You can lower everyone’s risk of getting infected by wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose, practicing social distancing, frequently washing your hands, and staying at home if you feel sick. It would also be best to wipe down high-traffic areas often. If you haven’t already, consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated can help everyone who attends the gathering, even if they aren’t eligible yet. Finally, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated areas. Following these guidelines will not only protect you, but it will protect others around you and keep everyone as safe as possible.

Get Creative With Events

The holidays for the foreseeable future won’t look like holidays of the past. To celebrate safely, you may have to get creative. For single-family households, you should limit your celebrations to only the people that live in the house, as this is the safest way to celebrate. For multiple-family homes, it would be best to spread out while eating. Instead of gathering at one table, set up multiple tables in different rooms. By separating everyone, they’ll be able to take off their masks to eat with a lowered possibility of spreading infection. It would be best to consider having one person plate the food to limit the number of people touching it. If you don’t feel comfortable gathering in person, a virtual party is always a safe option.

Travel Safely

Traveling increases your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Even if you have COVID and are asymptomatic, you can still spread it to others. You and anyone you travel with can spread COVD-19 for two weeks after your exposure. It would be best to avoid travel if you have COVID symptoms or have been around someone with symptoms. The Center for Disease Control recommends delaying the trip until you’re fully vaccinated if you have to travel. If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting tested with a viral test one to three days before your trip. Wear a mask while you’re traveling and get tested with a viral test three to five days after traveling and self-quarantine for one week after travel to be on the safe side.

Get Tested

The best way to know your COVID status is to get tested. However, it’s essential to know that your test results only provide information about your health at the moment of your test. If you get COVID-19 after you get an exam, that won’t show up in the results. You could also get a false negative if you’re tested too early in your infection. The best way to ensure that your test results are accurate is to quarantine yourself until you get your results back. If your results are positive, don’t travel or gather with your family.

Do What Makes You Comfortable

Another tip for gathering this holiday season is to avoid poorly ventilated rooms. COVID-19 is more likely to spread in places that have poor ventilation. By holding parties in well-ventilated rooms, you’re lowering the chances of spreading COVID-19. If the weather allows, it will help to consider taking your gathering outside. Having your party outside will allow your guests to spread out even more and lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The holidays are a special time of year. Everyone is happier and overall in a better mood. It’s a time where we want to gather with our family and loved ones and create new memories, on top of sharing old memories. The holidays are when you can eat good food and laugh at your favorite holiday movie with your loved ones. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we’ll celebrate the holidays for the foreseeable future.

The pandemic caused everyone to separate from their loved ones instead of spending more time together. We can still have holidays gatherings, but we have to remember to be safe.

Following these precautions around your family can feel awkward at first, but it’s the only way to ensure everyone’s safety. COVID-19 is still prevalent, so we must do everything to stay safe, especially for vulnerable populations. By discussing your expectations with family and loved ones, your visitors can know what to expect before they get to your gathering. If your visitors don’t want to follow your rules or expectations, kindly tell them that you are uninviting them to your party. The COVID-19 pandemic won’t end anytime soon. However, if we continue to work together and follow the guidelines, we can get back to everyday life and celebrate the holidays the way we did in the past.

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