A smiling family eats together. A smiling family eats together.

Holiday planning during the pandemic

Traditionally, the end of the year is filled with holiday celebrations, family gatherings, and good cheer — but the holidays will look a little different this year. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the CDC cautions that holiday gatherings and travel carry a high risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.* That’s why it’s important to celebrate safely this year — and act responsibly to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Celebrating with those in your household is the only safe option and the best way to protect yourself and others. But there are still many ways you can show you care this holiday season, even if it’s just over the phone or video chat. Here are 3 questions to consider, so you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus while still connecting with family.

Who will be there?

It’s important to limit the number of people you gather with. The general rule is to stick to people in your household or your “quaranteam” — also known as a quarantine bubble or a pandemic pod. For months, the term quaranteam has been used to describe the social circle you see in person during the pandemic to help you feel supported and connected to others. It’s a way to limit the risk of infection while also maintaining the social connections that benefit our mental health. For example, your quaranteam may include another family, a few select friends, or your neighbors. When you form a quaranteam or quarantine bubble, you make an agreement as a group to only see people within that bubble.

It’s OK to set boundaries or tell your friends and family you don’t feel comfortable getting together.

Where will you spend time, and for how long?

Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings so, if weather permits, try to stay outdoors. If your celebration is indoors, ventilation with open windows or doors can help lower risk.

Also, shorter gatherings are lower risk. So, for example, if you’re planning to get together with your family and you usually stay overnight, you could limit your plans to a physically distanced dinner party instead.

How will you socialize safely?

Getting creative and being flexible with your annual traditions will help keep everyone safe. According to the CDC, gatherings with more preventive measures like wearing a mask, physically distancing, and washing your hands pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.* If you do attend a holiday gathering, you should consider self-isolating for 2 weeks after to protect the health of others. It’s also important to get a flu shot before attending a gathering to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

So, whether you’re celebrating with your household or just video chatting with loved ones, think about how to adjust your traditions to lower your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Remember to take care of your physical health as well as your mental health throughout the holiday season. And may your days be merry — and healthy and safe.

*“Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed September 21, 2020.