Safe Holiday Celebrations

With the COVID-19 pandemic still a major issue in my area, how can I celebrate the holiday season while keeping myself and my family safe?

The COVID-19 pandemic is still a major issue in many areas, with the nation reporting more than 100,000 new cases in a day this week. In Ohio, for example, 4,229 new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday.

With that in mind, health experts have released guidance on how to have safe holiday celebrations in the midst of the pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered recommendations on what people need to know before traveling, hosting, attending parties, or gathering with family and friends during the holiday season.

When planning to host a holiday celebration, the CDC says the most important thing is to assess the current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees to your gathering.

Also, if you are hosting or attending a holiday gathering, the CDC says you should do the following:

• Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities, if possible. If hosting an outdoor event is not possible and you choose to host an indoor event, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces. Also, wear a mask when around people outside of your household.

• Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather.

• Host activities with only people from your local area, if possible. The fewer people you are with, the lower the overall risk.

• Limit the number of attendees. Keep your indoor get-together under 10 people, and limit it to one hour.

• Have supplies on hand to help you and others stay healthy, including masks and hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• If you are planning an in-person holiday gathering with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

• Try staggered eating times so that people from the same household can eat together at the same table. Consider eating with spaced-out seating.

• Use paper plates and disposable utensils, as they are safer to use than regular dishes and flatware.

• Wipe and sanitize common areas.

• Avoid having multiple people pass dishes to one another.

• Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items such as salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.

• Avoid any self-serve food or drink options such as buffets or buffet-style potlucks, salad bars, and condiment or drink stations.

Additionally, make sure that everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

While holidays are times when families and friends gather to celebrate, the lowest risk for contracting COVID-19 is to celebrate the holidays with members of your own household, Lobb said. However, there are other ways to celebrate without being in the same location, she said.

“One way to include members outside of your household in your celebration is to share recipes with family and friends and have a virtual dinner using a digital platform such as Zoom,” Lobb said. “Create new, virtual traditions like hosting a virtual game night or watching your favorite holiday movie simultaneously using a service like Netflix Party.

“And remember, make sure to include healthy food and beverage options such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low- or no-calorie beverages to help you and your family maintain good health.”

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