Balancing COVID-19 and the Holidays

Contributed by Brandi Fitch


Franklin County, along with the rest of the world, blinked and March suddenly turned into November. This pandemic will still unfortunately have a hold on the community during the holidays, which can make the existing stress harder to manage. Should I attend Thanksgiving dinner with my family? Do I wear a mask? Is it ok to eat after others at a holiday meal? IS IT SAFE? All very valid questions. While the decision is yours to make, here are some ways to safely maneuver the next two months and the pressure you might feel over the holidays.

When deciding if you should attend a family gathering this holiday season, be sure to consider the following factors that can create various amounts of risk:

  • Community Levels of COVID-19
  • Location of the gathering
  • Duration of the gathering
  • Number of people
  • Behavior of attendees prior to and during the gathering-Are they adhering to COVID-19 guidelines?

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, below are some tips to consider to keep your guests safer:

  • Try to host an outdoor event rather than indoor. If you’re not able to host the gathering outdoors, look to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed spaces. You can increase ventilation by opening windows and doors depending on the weather.
  • Encourage social distancing by spacing out tables and chairs
  • Host guests who live in your local area
  • Limit the number of attendees
  • Encourage attendees to bring their own food and drink, as well as supplies to help themselves and others stay safe (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • If serving food, try identifying one person to serve all food so multiple people aren’t handling utensils 
  • Remind guests to stay home if they are sick
  • If invited guests are uncomfortable coming to your home, suggest a virtual holiday dinner and share recipes with family and friends

Find additional tips and resources on best practices for personal and social activities here. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 (and have not met the criteria that it is safe to be around others), have symptoms of COVID-19, or are waiting for test results should seriously consider not attending any in-person holiday gatherings.

If you’re planning on traveling for the holidays, be sure to know your travel risks. While the holidays are an exciting time to be out and about with family and friends, it’s important to take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Please note that the following activities are considered high risk:

  • Going shopping in a crowded store just before or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator in a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with individuals outside of your household

WellSpan Health, in collaboration with Capital Blue Cross, will also be hosting Virtual Holiday Wellness Workshops on November 10th and 19th. The workshops will discuss three concepts to managing wellness over the holidays: staying moving, choosing healthy foods, and managing stress. The CDC’s considerations for holiday gatherings will also be reviewed. Register for the workshops on November 10th and November 19th.

Find more information from the CDC about holiday gatherings during COVID-19 here.