Earlier this year, in the weeks following holiday weekends and events, cases of COVID-19 spiked around the state and the nation. In an attempt to head off a similar surge with winter holidays on the way, the Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) offers guidance for gatherings.
“Staying home with just your own household is the safest way to celebrate,” said Erika Lautenbach, Whatcom County Health Department director. “But there are ways to enjoy the season and perhaps launch some new traditions.
The winter holiday season, which kicks off with Thanksgiving later this month, is traditionally a time for large gatherings, shared meals and indoor celebrations. To avoid the risks of COVID-19 transmission associated with those activities, WCHD recommends other options. “This year we have the opportunity to be creative about how we celebrate,” said Lautenbach.
Among the ways to celebrate small at home: make dinner special for members of the household, incorporate their favorite dishes; prepare family favorites to share with home-bound neighbors, if the dishes can be delivered without contact; host a virtual dinner and share recipes; synchronize remote viewing of holiday movies or football games with family and friends in other households.
It is safest not to gather at all. For those who do plan to gather with people from outside the household, it will be important to:
- Limit the total number of guests and be mindful of children.
- Ask guests to fully quarantine or limit social interactions for 14 days prior to the holiday gathering.
- Let guests know what to expect, and encourage them to wearing masks and spread out.
- Ask guests to take their temperature before arriving, and to remain home if they have symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
- Have a food plan and let your guests know (for instance, it’s safest if guests bring their own food or, if they want to share, have individual servings and utensils).
- Clean thoroughly before and after.
For those who might travel during the holidays, be sure to monitor the status of COVID-19 at the destination location, avoid close contact with others, always wear a mask, and wash hands or sanitize frequently. Consider quarantining for up to two weeks when you return home.
For more information on safe celebrations and holiday gatherings during the pandemic, visit the DOH Safer Gatherings webpage or the CDC website for travel guidance.