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Many of us look forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays. This year, however, it is not the same. We need to accept that this is "The COVID Year." Things are and have to be different this year to keep people safe. Previous holidays and occasions this year have shown spikes following family gatherings that have led to illness and deaths within families and communities. I'm telling my patients, "Go virtual for Thanksgiving to avoid the ICU for Christmas."
Fact of the matter is, things are NOT looking good right now... COVID is getting worse, not better. Virus numbers are surging across the United States and hospitals are facing capacity challenges. News of a vaccine is exciting, but we have a while before it will be distributed and available to all who want it.
So, in the meantime, we need to be diligent and not let our guard down. With the holiday season upon us, what does a responsible COVID-19 holiday look like? We've put together a list of 5 Do's for Healthy Holidays:
Discuss — Talk with guests and hosts about preventing spread. Keep each other safe and healthy!
Decide — Check your destination’s transmission rates and be prepared to cancel plans if they’re high.
Drive — The safest way to travel is to drive if you can, to limit your exposure.
Disinfect — Wherever you are staying, make sure all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned.
Distance — Stay 6 ft. away from others, wear a mask, wash your hands, limit gatherings to 6 people, practice air hugs!
The safest option is for the holiday to be celebrated among family members who live in the same household; and choose to communicate remotely with additional family and friends.
If you do choose to celebrate in person with friends or family from outside of your household, continue following the COVID safety precautions we should all know by now:
- Keep the gathering small.
- Wear your mask.
- Wash your hands.
- Watch your distance.
Additional ideas to make your holiday gathering safer include:
- Paper plates, cups and disposable utensils.
- Straws for beverages, so you can keep your mask on while sipping.
- No gathering near food.
- Individual servings rather than sharing serving utensils and condiments.
- Eat with others from your household.
What if you have symptoms?
- If you are sick, or specifically have any cold or respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, you need to stay home and stay isolated and discuss testing with your healthcare provider.
- If anyone in your household has COVID-19 or symptoms, others in the household should abstain from attending any gatherings as well.
- If you have had close contact with a known COVID-19 positive individual, you should abstain from attending any gatherings and per CDC and health department guidelines quarantine for 14 days following contact.
What if you get tested before the trip?
This is not a guarantee that you are not harboring the virus. People may have negative tests when they are contagious but before they become symptomatic.
What if you have already had COVID-19?
You should still follow these precautions. We are still learning about waning immunity, super-spreaders, long haulers and asymptomatic spreaders.
Dr. Erica Bruen is an Internal Medicine physician with SCL Health Medical Group - St. Vincent Healthcare. To learn more about her, click here.