Tips for gathering safely during the holidays

The safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is at home with the people who live with you. Travel and gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

With the holiday season approaching, you might be thinking about how to celebrate and keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Undoubtedly, the holidays will look different this year. But it is possible to celebrate safely, whether virtually or, in some cases, together in person. Find out how to minimize the risks involved in hosting or attending a holiday event.

Celebration considerations

When planning how to celebrate the holidays, consider that celebrating virtually or with members of your own household who are consistently following safety measures poses the lowest risk.

If you are organizing or considering attending a holiday gathering, make sure you check any state or local health and safety laws, rules, and regulations that might apply. It’s also important to consider the unique risks posed by each in-person event. To determine the level of risk involved, ask these questions:

What are the current levels of COVID-19? Check the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in your community, in the community where the event is being held, and in the community where guests are coming from. The greater the numbers and rates, the greater the risk of infection and spread among guests.

Where is the event being held? Outdoor gatherings are safest. If weather permits celebrate in your backyard or in a park. For indoor gatherings, opening windows and doors can ensure proper ventilation and help lower the risk. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose the greatest risk.

How long is the event? Longer gatherings pose a greater risk than shorter gatherings. Keep your event short.

How many people will attend? The greater the number of guests, the greater the risk. Keep the guest list small and make sure there is enough room to enable guests from different households to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. It’s safest to only gather with people who live in your household.

Are guests traveling? Spending time in airports, train stations, bus stations, rest stops, and gas stations can expose guests to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Do the guests follow safety measures? Gatherings with guests who don’t follow safety measures before or during the event pose a greater risk. Safety measures include avoiding close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with others, wearing masks, and washing hands. The use of alcohol can affect judgment and make it difficult to follow safety measures.

If you are not comfortable with the level of risk involved, consider canceling, postponing, or not attending the event. If you do plan to host or attend an event, have a conversation ahead of time with those involved to set expectations for how you will celebrate together.

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