Tips for reducing COVID-19 risks while celebrating the holidays

Monday, November 16, 2020

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, closely followed by Christmas and New Year’s. These holidays traditionally inspire gatherings of family and friends, yet due to growing concerns surrounding increasing COVID-19 infections, this year’s festivities will require even more planning than usual.

“Everyone is yearning for normalcy and that includes getting together in-person,” said Colette Rossiter, Clay County Public Health coordinator. “However, we have to stay united in making sure celebrations do not put us or our loved ones at a higher risk of acquiring COVID-19.”

Staying home and participating in virtual celebrations is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel and get together in-person with loved ones, be cognizant of the risks involved and plan for how you can minimize your potential exposure to viruses and reduce your chances of becoming ill.

Discuss the following with your family and friends to thoroughly prepare for festive celebrations and reach an agreement on measures taken that fit everyone’s comfort level.

Suggestions for mitigating risks of exposure:

—Limit the number invited.

—Stay home if anyone is feeling the slightest bit ill, awaiting test results, or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

—Gather outdoors if the weather allows. Even northwest Iowa occasionally gets a nice Thanksgiving weekend. Spend time throwing around a football, raking leaves, hanging holiday lights or gathering around a fire pit. If the weather allows, bundle up in warmer layers and plan an outdoor picnic.

—Make sure the gathering location allows for enough space between people.

—Open windows to improve airflow.

—Determine a seating plan ahead of time to keep six feet between each household.

—Do not use shared serving utensils.

—Wear masks while together.

—Have plenty of paper towels, soap and hand sanitizer available.

If traveling, consider the following:

—Cancel plans or trips if someone isn’t feeling well, is awaiting test results or has been exposed. It may be disappointing, but it is for the safety of your loved ones.

—Avoid larger crowds, including mass transit.

—Before you make any travel-related purchases or bookings, learn about the company’s COVID-19 prevention efforts and cancellation or refund policies.

—If traveling solo or by personal vehicle, bring hand sanitizer to use after stopping for breaks, and do not travel with those outside of your immediate household. If you must, wear masks and crack the windows.

—Remember, there is a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 as groups get larger and closer together, and gather for longer timeframes, especially while indoors.

Always keep the following in mind:

—If you feel ill at all, or you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19, stay home. Paying close attention to any symptoms and how you are feeling is so important right now.

—Wear a mask over your mouth and nose that is tight fitting and more than one layer.

—Avoid small spaces that do not allow for distancing of six feet.

—Stay at least six feet away from those who do not live in your home.

—Wash or sanitize your hands often. Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.

—Get your flu shot. It is important to get one each year, but if there were ever a time to get one, it’s now.

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