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Tuesday
November 24th, 2020

holiday mealHolidays are a time for family, but special occasions need to use safe protocols to limit the spread of coronavirus this year. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The holidays are coming up and that means many families are planning to get together to celebrate. 

With COVID-19 still an issue throughout the U.S., however, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) noted there are precautions families should take in order for everyone to stay safe for the holidays. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends,” the CDC noted. “This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe. Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 poses the lowest risk for spread. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you. People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk. Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection.”

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There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings, the CDC noted. 

“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,” the CDC noted. “Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Information on the number of cases in an area can often be found on the local health department Web site. Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine. Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations. Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures. 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. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.”

The CDC noted there are some other general precautions people should think about for holiday gatherings. 

“Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live on state, local, territorial, or tribal health department Web sites,” the CDC noted. “Based on the current status of the pandemic, consider if it is safe to hold or attend the gathering on the proposed date. Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household. Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible. Use EPA-approved disinfectants. Use touchless garbage cans if available. Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves. The more of these prevention measures that you put in place, the safer your gathering will be. No one measure is enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

There are also some food hygiene measures people should keep in mind as they gather for the big holiday meal, the CDC noted. 

“Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible,” the CDC noted. “Also, have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils. Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments. Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food and after taking trash out. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available. Designate a space for guests to wash hands after handling or eating food. Limit crowding in areas where food is served by having one person dispense food individually to plates, always keeping a minimum of a 6-foot distance from the person whom they are serving. Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations. Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event. The more of these prevention measures that you put in place, the safer your gathering will be.”

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