By the bioMérieux Connection Editors
As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase, it’s important to know how to reduce your risk of becoming ill this holiday season. Holiday gatherings can be a great way to reconnect with friends and family, but this year you should consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading not only COVID-19, but the flu too. Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for transmission.
Know what contributes to the spread of COVID-19
If you do choose to have a small in-person gathering, be aware of the several factors that can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. In combination, these factors will create varying levels of risk:
- Community prevalence of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- Exposure during travel –Travelers can be exposed to COVID-19 in many places, such as airports, bus stations, train stations, gas stations, and rest stops.
- Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people.
- Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to prevention behaviors such as social distancing and mask wearing pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
- Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.
You can find information on COVID-19 cases in your community from your local health department website or on CDC’s COVID Data Tracker County View.
Know who should avoid in-person gatherings
According to the CDC, the following people should not attend or host in-person holiday gatherings:
- People with or exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are over age 65, have certain medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, the CDC recommends you avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.
Know how to host or attend a holiday gathering in the safest way
The CDC has also gathered a list of recommendations for those who are considering attending or hosting a small gathering. Recommendations include planning ahead and asking guests to avoid contact with those outside their home for 14 days prior to the event, requiring guests to wear masks during the event, and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces often or between use.
The CDC also offers additional specific recommendations about:
- Serving food or drinks at small holiday gatherings
- Considerations and tips for staying overnight or hosting overnight guests
- Steps to take if exposed to COVID-19 during a holiday gathering
View the full list of recommendations on the CDC’s page Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings.
The CDC recommends that if you decide to travel or host/attend a small holiday gathering, you should follow safety measures to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. These safety measures also include getting your annual flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health. You can view locations to get your vaccine using the CDC’s VaccineFinder.
While the above recommendations can help reduce risk of illness and virus transmission, ultimately, the best way to stay safe this holiday season is to celebrate at home with only those in your household or virtually. Before deciding to celebrate with others, consider the level of risk involved, know what contributes to the spread of COVID-19, who is at the greatest risk for severe illness, and ensure that you know how to minimize risks to your health and the health of others.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.