Celebrate Safely This Holiday Season

While everyone is anxious to resume a more normal holiday season this year, COVID-19 numbers continue to increase in our communities. As we enter a season of holiday parties and gatherings, consider these tips on how to celebrate safely with friends and family over the holidays.

“We recognize how excited people are to celebrate the holidays this year, but we have to continue to be smart about how we do it since COVID-19 is still being actively transmitted in our communities,” said Gina Carnduff, system director for Infection Prevention at Memorial Health. “Guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health gives us some practical things to think about and implement ahead of parties and gatherings.”

The Bare Minimum

  • The COVID-19 vaccination is important. Protect the people you love and get vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals are at a lower risk of developing symptomatic or severe infection. They are much less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, get tested. Stay home if you test positive. And if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, get tested before gathering with family and friends. There are many testing locations at area pharmacies and healthcare locations that offer quick results.
  • Fight the flu. We are now in prime flu season so don’t forget that flu vaccination as well.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  • Be intentional about taking extra precautions when traveling if you or your family members are not fully vaccinated. State public health officials recommend that unvaccinated individuals get a COVID-19 test 1 to 3 days before their trip and test again 3 to 5 days after they return. After the trip, self-quarantine for seven days (10 days if not tested). Unvaccinated and vaccinated people should wear a mask, practice social distancing and practice good hand hygiene throughout their trip.
  • Travel during off-peak times or schedule shorter or direct trips between locations. Try to reduce close contact with others. Face masks are required on mass transit including planes and buses.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public places or crowded outdoor settings. Wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing.
  • Stay home if you develop symptoms. Fever or cough? Aches and pains? Cancel those travel plans if you 1) recently tested positive 2) are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test or 3) had close contact in past 14 days with a person who has tested positive.

Shopping Venues

  • Plan your shopping for quieter times. Avoid crowds. Wear a mask, physically distance and remember to wash your hands regularly.
  • Consider online shopping or curbside pickup.
  • Reschedule your shopping trips if you 1) recently tested positive 2) are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test or 3) had close contact in past 14 days with a person who has tested positive.

Guests and Gatherings

  • If weather permits, gather outdoors. This is the safest option for gatherings. If you gather indoors, consider opening windows for better air flow.
  • When indoors, gather in small groups and encourage distancing. Consider wearing a mask even if you are fully vaccinated to maximize protection for guests and family members who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Clean and sanitize kitchens and bathrooms after use by guests. Have hand sanitizer available at different locations. Remove cloth and use disposable hand towels in bathroom.
  • Use buffet-style meals so guests can serve themselves gradually rather than all at once. Try to reduce the amount of crowding in areas where food is served. Alternatively, plate and serve food to seated guests.
  • Consider alternative celebrations. If you or your loved ones are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19, consider virtual celebrations.

Spread of infections can also be decreased by wearing a mask, practicing social distance and getting your vaccinations. To find a COVID-19 vaccination clinic near you, please visit memorial.health/covid-19-information.

Resource: Illinois Department of Public Health

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