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How to have a pandemic-safe holiday season

Adapting to COVID-19 protocol has been ongoing for most of the year, but we are headed for arguably our biggest challenge yet: the holidays. November and December are known for endless indoor parties with family and friends. When the weather gets chilly, we want to be with our loved ones to celebrate familial tradition and the year coming to an end. However, to ensure the safety and health of our favorite people (and ourselves), festivities will have to be a little different this year. 

Safety is a communal effort

As of today, over 245,000 people worldwide (34,000 of them in the United States) have died from COVID-19. Surges are occurring across the country, including in states that weren’t as hard hit over the summer. A high point came on July 24 with over 74,800 cases. Recent daily case counts are far surpassing this; yesterday hovered around 181,800 cases. So how do we move forward with the holiday season?

“If you’re indoors and gathering with people, even if it’s a relatively small group, to the extent possible, keep the mask on even if you’re indoors,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CBS on Friday. He elaborated that if you and your group all test negative for COVID-19, you can use common sense and make your own informed risk assessment, given the risk is minimized. 

Important Guidelines

The CDC offers guidelines for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. The number one recommendation is to celebrate with people in your household. If not, take these steps: 

  • Check community levels of COVID-19 on the local health department website
  • Wear a mask. Be sure it covers your mouth and nose, is secure under your chin and fits snugly against the sides of your face. 
  • Safely store your mask in a paper bag while eating. 
  • Stay 6 feet apart from people you do not live with. 
  • Limit duration of gathering 
  • Regularly wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent alcohol) when you’re unable to wash your hands.
  • Bring your own food, drinks, utensils, plates and cups (or have guests bring their own).
  • Non-household members steer clear of the food preparation areas if possible. 
  • Use single-use options for condiments and disposable items. 
  • Open windows if indoors
  • Practice safe behavior before and during the gathering
  • Do not let pets interact with people outside your household
  • Provide extra supplies, like hand sanitizer and masks
  • Encourage friends and family to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
  • Best practice: A small outdoor meal with friends and family in your local community. Limit number of guests. Set expectations for celebrating together. 

Plans to travel? These precautionary measures are essential! 

  • Check travel restrictions
  • Get a flu shot before travel 
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer
  • If possible, get tested

Celebratory alternatives

If you or your family usually travel for the holidays or your loved ones are at high risk, it may be best to form a new plan for the 2020 holiday season. Thankfully, we live in a time where seeing someone’s face is just a click away. Below are some other activities to keep your up merry spirit.

1. A virtual party. This option can be adapted to any celebration for any amount of people. Schedule a time to have your meal over a video call. From your home, you can plug your computer into the television usually with an HDMI cable to better see your group. Use that time to check in on everyone, share recipes and tell them how much you miss them.

2. With gatherings assumedly being smaller this year, you might need to find a way to spread around all that food you made. Make someone’s day by preparing a traditional dish and delivering it to their door in a way that does not involve contact, such as leaving the food on the porch. You can put the food in disposable containers, but if not, be sure to wash the containers when you get them back! 

3. Is there a special dish you and your family usually make together? Gather all the ingredients and set up a time to cook all together via Facetime, Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. While you wait for the food in the oven, use the time to catch up like you would  during a typical family meal.

4. Virtual Secret Santa! Gather your group, choose names using this online generator, set a reasonable price limit and choose a time close to Christmas to open presents on a video call. Make sure you draw names in advance so each person has ample time to purchase and send the gift. Add some extra fun by all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.

5. Have a teleparty and watch a festive movie with out-of-household friends and family through Netflix Party. The streaming service has a slew of films to choose from, including the newly released “Jingle Jangle.” Find more kid-friendly options, check here

6. Are you used to your parents’ masterful holiday cooking? Have no fear! One great way to help local businesses stay afloat is to order takeout. Whether you’re looking for a Jewish deli, Chinese restaurant, endless tamales or just a really incredible pizza, make sure to look ahead and see if they are open. Call the restaurant directly to place your order, be cognizant to not call too close to closing time and leave a nice tip! 

7. Does Black Friday give you the shopping bug? Use contactless services, like curbside pick-up or delivery, or hit open air markets and stay six feet from other shoppers. 

8. Participate in a gratitude activity by writing down what you are thankful for and favorite memories of the year. Finding the light in all this darkness really helps keep up positive spirits. Take this to the next level by positing what you wrote on social media and asking friends to do the same! 

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Haley Bosselman
Haley Bosselman is the editor-in-chief of Culturas. She grew up in Orange County and moved to Los Angeles after earning her bachelor's degree in journalism from Arizona State University. In May 2020, Haley completed the Master of Science in journalism program at the University of Southern California. She's written a lot about music, but is geared toward any culture-related storytelling.
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