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Happy multi-generation family sitting at the dining table on Thanksgiving and communicating through a digital tablet

Get Creative to Celebrate a Coronavirus-Safe Holiday

By David Quimby, MD November 20, 2020 Posted in: Wellness, Coronavirus

The holidays are a time when we all enjoy getting together and spending time with family. Oftentimes, people see family that they haven’t seen for many months or even since the last holiday season. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, there are still some concerns with family gatherings. Although the amount of patients in the hospital due to COVID-19 are less than last year at this time, there is still a large amount of community spread of this infection.

COVID-19 and the Holidays

The truth about COVID-19 is that you can be contagious for several days before showing any symptoms, or even if you never develop symptoms (have an asymptomatic infection). While vaccinations can dramatically reduce your chance of getting an infection at all, it is still possible to have vaccine-breakthrough infections that could be passed along to your friends and family. Therefore, some precautions are probably a good idea for holiday gatherings.


Get Vaccinated

First and foremost, it is highly recommended that all people who are eligible receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Although some breakthrough infections can occur after vaccination, being vaccinated really decreases the chance of having an infection at all, and if you do develop infection, you are much less likely to get really sick from it. The overall health of you family contacts is important too: although you may be a young healthy person who feels you are unlikely to have a severe infection if you are infected, the same might not be true for your mom or grandmother that you will be seeing.

Travel Safely, Wear a Mask

There is much more travel this year than last year, both by car and by plane. Mask-wearing is needed in airports and on airlines, so this guidance should be followed to avoid problems during travel itself. Once at your destination, it is recommended that you continue to wear masks if you are going to indoor, crowded settings. While likely not that helpful for outdoor settings, mask-wearing does decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 in indoor settings.

What about holiday dinners? Masking is not possible while sharing and enjoying a meal, and, honestly, nobody really wants to wear masks inside the family home even if there are multiple people not from the same household. This is where vaccination comes into play: if all of the people are vaccinated, and someone develops illness and happens to spread it during the gathering, the folk who are vaccinated are much less likely to become severely ill.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you do develop symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, a cough, or fever, get yourself tested. If you have developed an infection, you really don’t want to spread it to your family and friends. Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to viral infections.

Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are an important time for many people, and maintaining family connections is equally important. While no gathering of people outside of your immediate household is going to be completely risk-free, taking some simple precautions (vaccination, wearing a mask when appropriate) can significantly decrease the risk, increasing everyone’s chances to have a happy, healthy holiday season.

David Quimby, MD
David Quimby, MD

David Quimby, MD is an infectious diseases physician at CHI Health.

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