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October 29, 2020

Don’t let COVID-19 crash your holiday gatherings

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COVID-19 is and will be an ongoing health concern for the foreseeable future. The CDC has provided comprehensive guidance for how to plan for the holidays, and we’ve got the info you most need below to keep you and your loved ones safe.

 Assess the risk of your holiday gathering 

Celebrating virtually with loved ones will have the least risk. Here are some tips for telling your family that you won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving.

In-person gatherings will have varying levels of risk based on many factors. In combination, these factors may create increased risk, so it’s important to consider them individually and together:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
  • Gov and MARC are great resources for the Kansas City region.
  • Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center is also a good source.
  • The location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose even more risk.
  • The duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
  • The number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce contact and risk of spread between attendees.
  • The locations attendees are traveling from – Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Monitor COVID-19 rates in the gathering location as well as where attendees are traveling from.
  • The behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Gatherings with attendees who do not adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees with these behaviors.
  • The behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, pose less risk than gatherings with fewer preventive measures.

At risk or already sick?

Some people should not attend in-person holiday celebrations. These include people with or exposed to COVID-19 and people at increased risk for severe illness or who live with people with increased risk. Visit the CDC holiday guidance page for more information.

Questions to ask before you celebrate:

If you’re hosting:

  • Have I referenced the CDC’s tips for hosting?
  • Is it possible to have my event outdoors?
  • If my event must be indoors, what can I do to improve ventilation in the space?
  • Can I limit my guest list to a small number of local people only?
  • Do I know the most updated COVID-19 safety guidelines? Have I shared them with my guests?
  • Do I have the necessary sanitation and hygiene items in my home? (extra masks, hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.)
  • Are my household and our guests social distancing and avoiding contact with people outside our home 14 days before our gathering?
  • How will we handle food preparation and any meals? Have I read the CDC’s tips for keeping safe around food and drinks?

If you’re attending:

  • Have I referenced the CDC’s guidance for events?
  • What do I know about the event location? Is it outdoors? Is the indoor space well-ventilated?
  • Does the host have social distancing, sanitation, and hygiene measures in place?
  • How will we handle food preparation and any meals? Have I read the CDC’s tips for keeping safe around food and drinks?
  • Do I have personal hygiene and sanitation supplies to bring with me? (extra masks, hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.)
  • Are my and my host’s households social distancing in advance of the event?

If you’re traveling:

Traveling will increase your risk of COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. To learn more, visit the following links:

If you decide to travel, protect yourself and others by:

  • Wearing a mass in public settings, at gatherings, and anywhere you’ll be around other people.
  • Avoid close contact (at least 6 feet of distance) from anyone who is not in your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Get your flu vaccine in advance of your .

Think about the risk level of your gathering’s activities 

The CDC’s guidelines include a breakdown of low, moderate and high-risk activities for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de Los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

Activities with the highest risk include:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating or trunk-or-treating for Halloween
  • Going to a haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Hayrides or tractor rides with people outside your household
  • Relying on a Halloween costume mask to adequately protect you
  • Attending crowded parties or gatherings held indoors
  • Having a large dinner party with people from different households coming together from different geographic locations
  • Attending large indoor celebrations with singing or chanting
  • Participating or spectating a crowded race or parade
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Shopping in crowded stores – especially just before, on, or after Thanksgiving

During the celebration:

  • Social distance and limit close contact with people outside your household.
  • Avoid restrooms and busy eating areas at high volume times.
  • Wear masks.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items.
  • Wash hands.
  • Keep safe around food and drinks.

After the event:

  • Take extra precautions for 14 days after the event to protect others.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Avoid being around people considered at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you develop symptoms or test positive, immediately contact the host and others that attended the same event. Contact your health care provider and follow the CDC-recommended steps for what to do if you become sick.
  • If you are waiting for test results, stay home and monitor your health and symptoms, think about the people you’ve been around recently, and answer any calls from the health department your doctor.
  • If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker may contact your to do contact tracing.
  • If you learn you were in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, stay home for 14 days and monitor your health for COVID-19 symptoms.