Is it possible to safely gather indoors for the holidays?
We have been living with COVID-19 for months now and in some ways, we’ve gotten used to the changes it’s brought. We’re now accustomed to working from home, wearing masks when out in public and have adapted to social distancing. But, as the weather turns colder, we’ll have to once again adjust our behavior. Without warm weather and the option of a backyard barbeque or playdates in the park, how will we socialize with family and friends? Is it possible to safely gather indoors as the pandemic continues?
The short answer, according to J. Michael Klatte, MD, chief, division of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s, is not really.
“As long as community transmission of COVID-19 continues to remain high in the Dayton area, indoor gatherings with invited guests who do not live in the same households will continue to pose an increased risk for COVID-19 transmission,” said Dr. Klatte.
However, there are strategies for prevention if you decide to socialize indoors. Dr. Klatte offers some guidance when gathering with family or friends:
- When getting together, have as few people as possible and limit to only a few households.
- Guests should be advised to stay home if they have been sick within the past two weeks and/or if they have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
- Masks should be worn by hosts and guests.
- Ideally, indoor seating should be arranged so that people from different households are at least six feet away from one another.
- When hosting guests, have hand sanitizer easily available/accessible.
It's important to remember that the risk of catching COVID-19 decreases as natural ventilation of an area increases, which is why being outdoors is preferred. If possible, opening doors and/or windows, even on a side of the home opposite to where invited guests will be gathering, should be encouraged.
Dr. Klatte recommends that if you decide to get together, consider keeping a written record of visitors, just in case a visitor is diagnosed with COVID-19 following the gathering. Doing so could help with contact tracing, if it is needed.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued their guidance for celebrating the winter holidays. When attending a Thanksgiving gathering, they recommend that each family brings their own food, plates, utensils and cups. If your family decides to share food, the CDC recommends identifying one person to serve the food and drink and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that the following people avoid in-person gatherings:
People with or exposed to COVID-19
Do not host or participate in any in-person gatherings if you or anyone in your household:
- Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
- Has symptoms of COVID-19
- Is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results
- May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19
Do not host or attend gatherings with anyone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.