“It will be a challenging and very different holiday season for all of us,” says infectious disease specialist Kimberly Shriner of Huntington Hospital, voicing what many of us are thinking right now. “We can be creative, but we must be careful. It is imperative that we try to control this pandemic to prevent so many more lives lost.”
Here is her advice for keeping your holiday gatherings as safe as possible.
What are the highest-risk activities that are likely to go on in households during Thanksgiving this year?
Too many people with no social distancing. Keep your celebration small (no more than 10, preferably smaller), social distant (at least 6 feet), short as possible and wear masks when not eating. Keep the group to people you know and trust, especially who you trust are COVID negative. As harsh as this seems, this is not the year to have your elderly family members for Thanksgiving. Do a drive-by with them or Zoom. .
How can we create the safest possible guest list for our gatherings?
Invite healthy people who you trust and who would tell you if they were exposed to someone else who might be sick. No elderly (older than 70) or people with serious underlying health issues such as diabetes, cardiac disease or lung disease. Negative COVID tests are only helpful if they are a reliable test (PCR is better than quick antigen testing) and done within 72 hours of the event with no sick contacts during those 72 hours.
When setting up seating for an outdoor gathering, should families consider separate tables for each household represented?
If the household is used to being together and all are healthy, they can be seated together. If they are not usually together, then they must be seated 6 feet apart.
Is it safer to serve the food buffet style? Family style with platters of food passed hand-to-hand? With meals for each individual plated in the kitchen?
A hard question. Buffets have their own risk, but passing food is also not risk free. Everyone should be practicing good hand washing. You might consider having one or two persons with masks prepare each plate, according to the person’s requests, and then bringing those plates to each person.
Are there specific activities that people should avoid?
Any unmasked activity that could create an aerosolization event would be risky. This would include singing, yelling, loud talking, blowing out candles, whistling or playing wind instruments. Any type of game that requires close contact should be avoided. A nice family slide show or home movies with everyone sitting 6 feet apart could be a safe activity that everyone could enjoy.