The CDC releases guidelines for fall celebrations
With pumpkin spice lattes back and a bit of chill in the air, thoughts turn to the largest family gathering of the year, Thanksgiving. Families travel from all over the country to gather for a large meal, football games and parades. For military families, the holidays often mean travel to your hometown or family coming to visit you. This year with the COVID-19 pandemic, is it safe to have a large group of 20-30 in a home with no hope of social distancing? Can you enforce mask wearing? So how do you celebrate safely? The CDC recently released a set of guidelines to help mitigate your risk.
Before you plan to host a holiday celebration or attend one, check local regulations at local and state levels. Assess the current COVID-19 levels of the community where the event will take place. This factor as well as the location and duration of the affair contribute to the risk of getting infected. The safest way to celebrate is virtually or with just members of your immediate household. Anybody sick with COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, been exposed to a person who has COVID-19 or anybody at higher risk of the illness should not attend.
CDC Guidelines on how to mitigate risk:
- Do not hold your event if there are higher levels of COVID-19 in your community or where you are traveling to. Do not allow people to attend who are coming from higher risk areas.
- If possible hold your event outside. Many parks have large pavilions to rent which allow for distancing. If you hold indoors open windows to increase ventilation.
- The longer the event the greater the risk. Plan a shorter one to be safer.
- Check your local restrictions on the number of people who can attend the event. The more people the greater your risk. Evaluate the space to make sure everyone can social distance.
- Enforce safe behavior by requiring masks, social distancing of at least six feet and frequent handwashing or the use of hand sanitizer. Plan to have extra masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer available.
- Have all attendees avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days prior to the event. After the event if you have been exposed to a lot of people outside of your immediate household
- Avoid close contact. No hugs, kisses, or handshakes. Waving is a good substitute.
- Food Safety – For those in contact with the food wash hands often. Have one person serve the food so multiple people are not in contact with the serving utensils. Use single serving condiments. According to the CDC, currently there is no evidence that handling or eating food directly spreads COVID-19.
- Throughout the event clean and sanitize high touch areas. After the event wash all linens such as tablecloths, napkins, and kitchen towels as well as hand towels.
Although travel poses its own risks it may be a good option for multi-family get togethers. Pick a central destination for extended family to meet. Ideally a place within driving distance for everyone so no one must fly. If you do fly look for airlines that don’t book all the seats on a flight. Check out a full-service resort or a rent a separate cabin for each family. A resort allows separate sanitized rooms and lots of space on the property to spread out. The event planner can help plan a meal served in an event room which will allow for social distancing while dining. Some cabin resorts have facilities for groups and if you keep your numbers down can be a safer option. Outdoor activities like hiking or walks on the beach are safer ways to spend time together than sitting door to dinner in a packed dining room.
What are your plans for Thanksgiving? How do you plan to keep your family safe? Share your tips in the comments.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com