How to safely celebrate the upcoming holiday season

By Lexi Meola

Elm Staff Writer 

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our everyday lives, as simple actions such as hugging a loved one or going out with friends to gatherings and events now seem like a distant element of the past. 

Now, as the holidays draw near, many people are unable to spend time with their families because of the recent surges in COVID-19 cases, both within the United States and across the world. 

However, there is still hope that people can safely spend the holiday season with those you hold dear. There are many guidelines families should follow should they decide to get together for any of the upcoming holidays. 

The first would be to wear a mask for as long as you can, apart from eating and drinking during family gatherings. 

According to guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for holiday gatherings, evoking “more safety practices, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.” 

As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise, more people are expected to be traveling home for the holidays, despite provided recommendations. 

According to the Transportations Security Administration, more than one million people have currently passed through airport security checkpoints in the U.S. the Friday through Sunday prior to this year’s Thanksgiving, the busiest recorded since March when initial national lockdowns first began. 

Despite the CDC’s constant pleas to the American people not to gather nor travel during a still-raging pandemic, people still are choosing to be with their families for the season. 

 “Health officials say they believe small home gatherings are fueling the spread of COVID-19 in part because most homes, by design, are poorly ventilated,” The New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope said. “Homes are now a main source of [COVID-19] transmission, accounting for up to [70%] of cases in some areas.” 

The CDC recommends that if you intend to gather with loved ones, make sure you opt for an outdoor gathering if possible. If not, make sure to open as many windows as possible to increase the circulation in the room. 

Other recommendations include lowering any music so that people do not have to scream over each other, reducing the particles spreading in the air, and also constantly washing their hands and using hand sanitizer to reduce the spread. 

When eating, the CDC recommends spreading out as much as possible. The less crowded the eating area is, the better, especially with masks off. 

The CDC also recommends wiping down commonly touched surfaces, including countertops and door handles, and to “limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items, such as serving utensils.” 

“Guests should have separate serving spoons and avoid sharing and passing serving dishes or utensils [and] be mindful about touching water pitchers, wine bottles and drinking glasses handled by others,” Parker-Pope said. “Wash hands frequently, place disposable paper towels in the bathroom so your guests aren’t sharing the same hand towel, [and] space your guests so they aren’t crowded around a table.”

While many individuals want to spend time with their families, particularly during a holiday season that emphasizes a time where loved ones get together and see one another, there are also plenty of ways to stay connected with their loved ones this holiday. 

One method to try is hosting a widespread Zoom, Facetime, or Skype call with family members and friends. While not being able to hug or see them in person is not ideal, at least you can see them virtually until it is deemed safe enough to visit. 

Though the holiday season is the time to come together under normal circumstances, considering the pandemic continues to go on, choose to be and stay safe, that way families can be together in years to come.

Featured Photo caption: While we all are in need of some old-fashioned holiday cheer, here are some important tips to help to keep your loved ones safe this season. Photo Courtesy of JESHOOTS.

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