Nobody wants COVID-19 as an uninvited guest at their Thanksgiving or other holiday feasts. The providers at Premier Medical Group understand the desire for people to celebrate with family and friends. We also know that there are increasing risks of infection, given the high rates being experienced around the country and close to home. So here are some practical tips on sharing a little good (distanced) company while keeping everyone as safe as possible from coronavirus.
70% of coronavirus is transmitted at home
We love to think of home being the safest place we can be. And family? Surely that wouldn’t infect us? No, they would not do it knowingly. However, your guest may have been infected without knowing. Maybe they’ll show symptoms in a couple of days after you get together, maybe they won’t show symptoms at all, but they still may be infecting everyone with whom they have contact.
How big a risk is it to bring people together?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is quoted in the New York Times as saying “Most people feel (safe) when they’re in the house with friends, they almost subconsciously let their guard down….They don’t realize they’ve come from multiple cities, spent time in airports. They come to a house where Grandma and Grandpa are, or someone with an underlying condition, and they innocently and inadvertently bring infection into a home. It’s dangerous. You’ve got to be careful.”
How to make Thanksgiving as safe as possible:
- Keep it very small, if at all. This year, stay home and perhaps have a smaller meal than usual with only the family unit.
- See guests from outside the family, outside!
- If you have any guests from outside the family unit, open the windows, and eat buffet-style, instead of all together around the dining table.
- Shoulder to shoulder is not a safe way to be, whether in the kitchen, at the dining room table, on the couch watching TV, or bent over a jig-saw puzzle. Distance means distance – 6-10 feet!
- If it’s not snowing and you have a porch or a sheltered spot, spread family unit tables far apart, put out some fire pits or other space heaters. Eat at the warmest part of the day.
- How about meeting friends and family outdoors instead of the usual meal. Keep 6 ft. distance and go for a good walk, or sit around a fire pit. Wear your masks and don’t sing or shout – it spreads the virus!
- Yes, wear masks when cooking. Yes, it’s hotter, but you don’t want to breathe all over the food.
- Masks on when you’re not eating. We all know this makes sense.
- Yes, wash hands frequently. As often as possible. The cook has to take responsibility for protecting their guests.
- Invest in an air cleaner. It is generally safer to have clean air circulating to protect those who breathe it.
- Put hand sanitizer in prominent places. The more the merrier.
- Paper hand towels and napkins. Be sure there’s a trashcan nearby, wear gloves when emptying the trash.
Will testing for COVID-19 ensure we’re safe to gather for the holidays?
Only if you quarantine for 14 days and then get tested can you be sure you won’t transmit the virus to someone you love. Is it worth risking the health of family members and loved ones?
Will a vaccine be here by end of year holidays?
Obviously the news that there are vaccines coming is encouraging. However, with a national surge in cases, now is not the time to lower your guard. Be thoughtful, be alert, think of the health of others as well as your own.
CDC guidelines for the holidays – food for thought
These are the important pieces of information that the Center for Disease Control want you to consider before you gather or travel:
- Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Information on the number of cases in an area can often be found on the local health department website.
- Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
- Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
- Number and crowding of people at the gathering – do the math! Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
- Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
- Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
There’s always next year!
We don’t want to make decisions for you, but what would the impact be for your family and friends if you get sick, or you infect someone else? If you or they are older, or have underlying conditions, the results of a COVID-19 infection can be very bad indeed, even fatal. So if you love your family, postponing your get-together to next year may be the kindest, most caring act of all.