How to enjoy the holidays and stay safe during a pandemic

Monday, October 5, 2020
Experts say socially-distanced holiday gatherings are OK
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Don't cancel the holiday gatherings just yet! Here's how experts say you and your family can have a safe, socially-distanced holiday.

The pandemic is changing holiday traditions for many of us.

Studies show it is 10 times easier to transmit the virus inside as opposed to outdoors.

Since most holidays are spent inside at a table elbow-to-elbow with family and friends, health experts like Dr. Catherine Troisi say they are concerned we are going to see an upswing in cases.

Even shopping for the holidays can put more of us at risk.

RELATED: What to look out for when holiday shopping in a pandemic

The CDC suggests:

  • Choose outdoor gatherings over indoors
  • Keep the time of the gathering short
  • Keep the gathering small
  • Consider if guests traveled

"We are actually not really concerned about transmission on the plane," Dr. Troisi said. "They have very efficient air filtering systems and, although there have been some cases where that has occurred, it is much more likely to occur in the airport."

If you do plan to travel, Dr. Troisi offers this advice:

  • Driving is safer than flying
  • If you drive, bring your own food
  • Make sure you don't have COVID-like symptoms two weeks prior to travel
  • Try to quarantine for 48 hours in a hotel before seeing loved ones

SEE ALSO: CDC releases guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving holiday safely

If you plan to fly, Dr. Troisi suggests you:

  • Wear a mask
  • Choose an airline that is not filling the middle seat
  • Don't fly during peak hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead choose an evening flight, ideally 9:30 p.m. or later
  • Choose a window seat at the back of the plane so less people pass by you

Events that include a lot of people in a small indoor space without masks, like a big Thanksgiving dinner or opening gifts in the living room with a lot of family members, will put you at a higher risk for COVID-19, especially if someone in the room is a "super spreader."

Research shows most infected people with a typical COVID-19 viral load don't flood the air with coronavirus infected respiratory droplets, and the risk of catching the virus from them tends to be low.

But a severely infected person who's coughing frequently, talking, or singing can fill a poorly ventilated room with as many as 7.4 million copies of the coronavirus for every cubic meter of air.

"It may have something to do with the person. They may have a higher viral load, that is the amount of virus," Dr. Troisi said. "They may be particularly efficient at spraying when they talk and getting the virus out there."

RELATED: CDC Halloween guidelines discourage trick-or-treating during COVID-19 pandemic

If you plan to host or attend a holiday gathering, the CDC recommends:

  • Wash your own dishes to limit cross-contamination
  • Paper plates are safer to use than regular dishes
  • Wipe down common areas
  • Don't use serving utensils or pass dishes

The good news is, Dr. Troisi says you don't have to cancel the holidays.

If you follow these guidelines and consider the safest way to gather with family and friends, you can still enjoy the holiday season.

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