How To Minimize COVID Risk During The Holidays

Source: Scientific American

There is no such thing as a totally COVID-safe family gathering. But here are some ways to reduce the dangers.

One would ideally want to minimize the total numbers of both attendees and households involved. People who live together are essentially combining their exposure, so think of things in terms of how many contacts you are bringing together. In general, a celebration with 10 residents from a single household will be lower risk than a gathering involving five couples from five different households –—unless, of course, someone in the 10-person home is a frontline worker.

Individual circumstances matter, and that is why it is difficult to put hard-and-fast numbers on how many people are too many. When making the guest list, consider the risk each specific attendee poses, as well as how much risk each person is comfortable taking on. Some cities, counties and states have limits on gathering sizes. These restrictions are subject to change, so check the latest health directives before finalizing plans.

If people travel between communities (especially to or from ones with high coronavirus case numbers), “a single Thanksgiving Day could fuel a community-wide surge.”

Before going anywhere, Bhadelia suggests checking how the epidemic is playing out in your local region at the time of travel — A test positivity rate should be under 5 percent in any area where attendees will come from or travel to. And if you must travel, the safest way is by car. The major risk from air travel comes from airports, where people mingle with others from across the country or elsewhere. If you end up on the ground for an extended period without the plane running, that can mean “lots of people packed into a sardine can without ventilation.

The best way to cut the risk of transmitting the virus is to wear a mask, stay outside and keep six feet apart. Contact tracing has shown that the most common cause of transmission is indoor gatherings. Obviously, not every part of the country is conducive to outdoor holiday gatherings — Consider rescheduled celebrating when weather is nicer, or even swapping a big sit-down meal indoors with a lower-risk outdoor activity such as hiking, skiing or gathering around a firepit.

Everyone involved should be scrupulous about good COVID behavior: wearing masks, social distancing and reducing contact with people from outside the home as much as possible. The least risky way to include elderly or other at-risk relatives is to have attendees sequester themselves at home for two weeks, avoiding all in-person social contact, and then drive to the gathering while being very careful about interactions along the way.

Pandemic fatigue is no reason to let your guard down: The very safest way to celebrate this year is still together but heart-to-heart rather than face-to-face.

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