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By Callie Nelson 

The holiday season is upon us and you might be thinking about how you can celebrate with family and friends and still be safe from the spread of the coronavirus. There’s no doubt that this holiday season will look and be different from years in the past. In previous years, our focus has been on what to serve, who will attend, and getting all of the family activities planned; this year the question is do we risk hosting or attending an event.

If you are considering hosting or planning how to celebrate the holidays, make sure you check any state or local health and safety laws, rules, and regulations that might apply. It’s also important that you consider the unique risks posed by each in-person event. The safety celebration is with immediate/household members only.

The Center for Disease Control offer these general considerations for hosting a gathering that will bring people together from different households.

Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live on state, local, or tribal health department websites. Based on the current status of the pandemic, consider if it is safe to hold or attend the gathering on the proposed date; if the numbers are increasing, don’t host an event.

Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. If this cannot be done, consider not hosting the gathering. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.

Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Require guest to wear masks. At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking. It is also important to stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not in your household at all times.

Do not hold gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.

Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation. If it will be too cold to open windows, consider not hosting the gathering.

If setting up outdoor seating under a pop-up open air tent, ensure guests are still seated with physical distancing in mind. Enclosed 4-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents. If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put up the tend sidewalls, consider leaving one of more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12” of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.

Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.

Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Provide guests information about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps that will be in place at the gathering to prevent the spread of the virus.

Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils; designate one person to serve all plates and use disposable dishes and flatware.

Use touchless garbage cans if available. Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.

Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

Treat pets as you would other human family members- do not let pets interact with people outside the household.

The more of these prevention measures that you put in place, the safer your gathering will be. No one measure is enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Source: Center for Disease Control and www.mayoclinic.org.

Callie Nelson is Dallas County Extension Office coordinator.

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