As we enter the holiday season, it’s vital to remain committed to safety when considering your plans.

Family Health | one year ago

Conversation Guide: How to Discuss Holiday Plans with Friends and Family

As we enter the holiday season, it’s vital to remain committed to safety when considering your plans.

We know that large gatherings, travel and crowded parties may increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. You can use these questions to help you talk to your family and friends about your plans.

While the CDC lists guidance to help protect people and their communities from the pandemic, these questions can shape a conversation about holiday plans with friends and family. 

1. Who should/should not attend an in-person celebration?

According to the CDC, people at increased risk for severe illness should avoid in-person celebrations. Older relatives in the senior population are also at risk.

People with or exposed to COVID-19 should avoid in-person celebrations as well. Jason Fishel, MD, internal medicine physician at Atrium Health Mecklenburg Medical Group – Ballantyne reiterates that “if you’re sick, even with just mild congestion, and even though this is understandably a difficult decision, please make the right call and stay home.”

2. If I or my loved ones decide to travel, what should we do to stay safe and healthy?

Regardless of travel method (by car or plane), people should plan to avoid contact with others outside of their households for 14 days before gathering. Self-imposed quarantine prior to travel limits exposure to others and minimizes the risk of spreading disease.

In addition, Dr. Fishel encourages people to “not only follow local ordinances in terms of social distancing and masking, but also to make yourself aware of the COVID-19 levels in your destination and any unique health recommendations or situations there.”

Kyle Cunningham, MD, MPH, a trauma and critical care surgeon at Atrium Health, emphasizes a few more recommendations for safe travel:

  • Consider bringing wipes and wiping down high touch surfaces
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between you and others as much as possible
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wear a cloth face covering
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often. It's especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Be sure to use soap and water for at least 20 seconds

3. What are ways to have a COVID-Safe gathering this holiday season?

In a nutshell, keep it small, stay outside, avoid serving food and drink and always mind the three W’s (wear your mask, wait and social distance at six feet, wash your hands often).

Why? “What spreads COVID-19 are social activities with longer, closer contact for prolonged periods of time when people are not masked,” says Katie Passaretti, MD, medical director for infection prevention at Atrium Health.

It may be difficult, but people should avoid gatherings based on meals when possible. “You have to take your mask off to eat, and it’s really hard to truly stay far enough apart to stay safe,” she says.

Another factor is group size. Limit the number of people gathering in the same place.

4. How should we celebrate differently this year?

Typical holiday traditions – parades, sporting events, Black Friday shopping and more – draw large crowds. Participating in these activities can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Why not try something new this year? Save time by shopping online for Black Friday deals. Watch movies that tap into holiday nostalgia. Stream a video game tournament with relatives across the country. Experiment with your holiday menu to make things feel special and not just different. You can still enjoy the season. All you need to do is get creative!

And remember – as unusual as this year has been, we still have things to celebrate and to be grateful for. Be sure to pause and reflect on the meanings behind your celebrations.

How are our Atrium Health teammates planning to spend their holidays this year? Watch this video to find out!