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Having a Pandemic Holiday Season Without a COVID New Year

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No matter what our Thanksgiving plans are, they are going to look and feel different this year. Chances are we’ll find ourselves with fewer family members and friends to share holiday feasts and, as if that isn’t enough tough stuff, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our other holiday traditions, too.

There’s no going around it if you’re more concerned with getting infected than having your parties affected—and you should be, according to the national public health institute, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means adding a bunch of new, picky protocols into our holidays, including checking Hancock County’s (and the Indianapolis metro area’s) COVID infection levels and following recommendations regarding masks, social distancing, the number of people at your gatherings, and whether to even have gatherings at all. (Or, if you’re planning to travel, take a look at your destination’s infection levels.)

If the infection rate is high or increasing, consider canceling or limiting get-togethers and, even if they’re decreasing, taking safety precautions is the healthiest thing to do. Below are a few tips and sadly, we have to say it: Probably the safest thing you can do is stay home, limiting your in-person parties to the people you live with.

Bundle up and party outside. Public health experts agree: Outdoor parties provide good ventilation and are less risky than indoor celebrations. So moving your Thanksgiving feast and holiday soirees outside is a great idea, especially if you’re carving the turkey with extended family. 

Keep it short. Longer-lasting gatherings pose more risk than shorter ones.

Keep the guest list small. The more people, the bigger the chance of a COVID transmission. So host an intimate party and make sure there’s enough space for people to spread out—six feet apart, to be exact.

Zoom with friends and family who can’t attend. That way loved ones in high-risk categories (because of their age or immune systems) can participate from the safety of their homes.

Consider where out-of-town guests are traveling from. Parties with guests from faraway places may be more interesting, but they’re higher risk than those with people from the same area. And attendees who travel from places with high COVID rates are risker than those who don’t.

Consider the behavior of your party’s attendees. Getting together with family or friends who don’t regularly wear masks, wash hands, and adhere to social distancing guidelines increases the risk of spreading the virus. It’s also a great idea for families to quarantine at home for 14 days before celebrating together.

Ditch buffets, self-serve food and drink stations, and shared plates. Sharing food and drinks can spread germs. Just don’t do it this year. Sadly, that means it’s not a good idea to pass the mashed potatoes or anything else. Instead, have one person assemble the plates—with clean serving spoons and forks—and even deliver family members their second helpings.

Mask up. Whether you’re inside or out, wear masks. The good news is there will be plenty of fun holiday prints to mix and match with festive fashions.

Supply soap and sanitizer. Put bottles of hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) on all your tables and stock sinks with plenty of soap, sanitizer, disposable towels, and disinfecting wipes. Leave a note asking guests to wipe down bathrooms and sinks when they are finished using them.

Keep your distance. We know: The people you spend holidays with are your favorite people and you want to be near them. Think of their safety (and yours) this year and stay six feet apart. You’ll be glad you did when everyone maintains good health as we head into the new year.

These are just a few of the safety precautions to consider this year, as we plan our first (and hopefully only) holiday season amid a pandemic. If you have questions or think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, contact us at our COVID hotline at 317-325-COVD(2683) and visit our COVID page at coronavirus.hancockregionalhospital.org. And, remember, we’re all in this together!

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