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As temperatures drop and the year nears its end, many of us look forward to the opportunity to spend quality time with our family and friends. Similar to last year, the COVID-19 pandemic will affect how we celebrate the holidays this year. Data collected on the long-term effects of COVID-19 is ongoing, and there is the risk of contracting the virus or transmitting it to others. If you are just making plans for family gatherings and are wondering how to stay healthy and safe, read on for a few tips.

Assess Guest Risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people can gather in small numbers safely. If your family and friends are vaccinated, the risk of transmitting the virus is reportedly very low. Of course, not everyone may be vaccinated. In that case, think of the elderly and/or those with vulnerable immune systems who may gather with you. These high-risk individuals could experience severe complications if they contract the virus. Therefore, consider distancing tables to protect vulnerable guests. Other options are to gather outside and to wear masks when not eating and drinking.

Get Tested 

If your family and friends are willing, encouraging them to get COVID-19 tests prior to the gathering, is one of the best measures you can take to ensure no one contracts the virus during holiday celebrations. You could recommend testing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated loved ones. If anyone tests positive, they should follow protocols and isolate themselves from others until they are clear of the virus.

Unvaccinated? Get vaccinated!

Vaccinations are the best line of defense against the virus. Over 400 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the United States. Although not a cure for COVID-19, these treatments are both safe and effective against the virus. Even if others around you are unvaccinated, you can keep yourself safe and decrease the risk of spreading the virus by getting vaccinated.

Put on “Winter Layers” 

As suggested by Epidemiologist Celine Gounder, just as we wear layers of clothing to stay warm in winter, you can also use layers of safety measures to keep loved ones safe against COVID-19. These layers (safety measures) include:

  • Gathering outside or in big, open spaces if possible.
  • Practicing social distancing to protect vulnerable family members and guests.
  • Wearing masks when not eating and drinking.
  • Washing your hands often during the gathering.
  • Getting a COVID-19 test prior to the gathering and only gather if you tested negative.
  • Getting a vaccination.

Feeling Sick? Stay Home!

Use video chat platforms, such as Zoom, Skype, Facebook, or Instagram to allow sick, vulnerable, or recovering loved ones to connect. This will help to stop the potential spread of the virus. If they are nearby, deliver a plate of food to them prior to the gathering so the family can still eat and celebrate together.

More Information

For additional COVID information, visit the AL Voices for Vaccine’s webpage or www.aces.edu. To find a vaccine site near you, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s COVID in Alabama website.

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