CDC Covid-19 guidelines for celebrating the holidays

CDC Guidelines for the Holidays

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in many areas across the United States, many people are anxiously debating on what to do for the holiday season. This time of year is normally the time for work potlucks and large family gatherings, but this isn’t a normal year.

Like anything in science and medicine, the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to be safe from COVID-19 have been regularly updated as we understand more about the virus. That includes its recommendations for the holidays.

Don’t run the risk of spreading COVID-19 among your families, friends, coworkers, and patients. Whether you’re a health care professional working the floor or an admin running a facility, here’s what you should know about the CDC’s guidelines for celebrating the holidays both at home and at work.

At Home

The CDC currently has recommendations for Thanksgiving celebrations and not yet for the December holidays, but many of the suggested guidelines for general holiday celebrations can apply to any large holiday this season. 

Keep in mind any local and state restrictions that might apply to you, such as mask mandates, travel restrictions, or limits for the number of people in a gathering. 

As you go about your holiday preparations and celebrations, these are the following recommendations for you to follow and encourage others to follow:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth
  • Keep a six-foot distance between you and anyone who doesn’t live with you
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you’re not able to wash your hands

Recommendations for Gatherings

It’s inevitable that many people will still choose to have small gatherings with close family and friends for the holiday season. However, the CDC’s recent recommendations to only celebrate with people who live with and to not travel.

If you are attending an in-person gathering for the holidays, here are the CDC’s recommendations to follow:

  • Wear a mask
  • Have a method to store your mask properly
  • Bring your own food and drink
  • Bring your own plates, cups, and silverware
  • Limit how many people are in areas where food is being prepared or served at any given time
  • Use single-use and disposable items whenever possible, such as for condiments. 

In addition to the above recommendations, if you’re hosting an in-person gathering for the holidays, the CDC has the following guidelines for you to consider:

  • Talk with any guests ahead of time to make sure everyone understands and accepts your expectations and precautions
  • Host the meal or gathering outdoor if possible
  • Limit the number of guests
  • For indoor gatherings, keep the area well-ventilated and open the windows if possible
  • For gatherings with shared food, have only one person with a mask serve food
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces or items that are frequently touched or used in between use.

The CDC recommends hosting virtual gatherings whenever possible if you choose to celebrate with people who do not live with you. 

At Work

For facilities and staff, the holiday season is a favorite time to host potlucks and holiday parties. 

The CDC currently recommends against having any sort of potluck-style gatherings. If potlucks do happen, the guidelines recommend that each person should bring food and drinks only for themselves and anyone they live with.

Although the CDC states that it’s currently not a primary source of transmission, it’s still possible for the virus to live on surfaces, such as food containers or utensils that get shared around during potlucks. By touching those surfaces and then touching our mouth, nose, or eyes, we run the risk of spreading the virus.

Guidelines for Holiday Parties

Of course, preventing small work holiday parties or potlucks altogether isn’t always likely to happen. In the case your facility wants to have a small holiday party for those health care professionals working holidays, here are the recommendations for small holiday gatherings:

  • Wear a mask when preparing and serving food
  • Limit how many people are in the room with the food
  • Have a plan to safely store masks while eating to keep it clean and from potentially infecting other surfaces
  • Have just one masked person serve food individually to limit how many people touch serving utensils
  • Use proper hand hygiene often, including hand washing and hand sanitizer
  • Keep a six-foot distance from other people when serving food or eating and drinking 
  • Have the event outdoors or, if not possible, in a large, well-ventilated area
  • Use single-use plates, condiments, containers, utensils, etc. whenever possible.

Although there’s often a high risk for many health care professionals to get COVID-19 at work where there are already positive patients or staff, they can just as easily get the coronavirus while outside of work if they don’t follow proper precautions.

Encourage all staff to err on the side of caution and take the proper restrictions for holiday gatherings both when they’re at work and when they’re at home.

Yes, it’s difficult to be away from family and friends during such an important and people-centered time of the year. But it’s also the best and most respectful way to protect themselves, their loved ones, their coworkers, and the patients we care for.