holidaygatherings

Just as you plan for your holiday guests’ enjoyment by ensuring they’ll have enough food, drink and merriment, health officials say you should also plan to ensure they’re safe from COVID-19 by taking commonsense health precautions.

Just as you plan for your holiday guests’ enjoyment by ensuring they’ll have enough food, drink and merriment, so should you plan in the COVID-19 era for their safety by taking commonsense health precautions.

Public health officials say that planning starts with knowing your own health status as well as that of your guests. Remember, indoor holiday celebrations and events that involve groups of people increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. They say there is no shame in taking health precautions to ensure someone in attendance at your gathering doesn’t get infected with the disease.

Hosts should inform all prospective guests of their health expectations in advance of the gathering. One step recommended by Albemarle Regional Health Services is to get vaccinated and encourage your guests to do the same. Encourage guests who are not fully vaccinated to wear a face covering and maintain physical distance from others, especially when they are indoors.

ARHS also recommends staging events outdoors as much as possible for activities that involve increased respiratory effort such as singing or chanting. ARHS urges those who are vaccinated to still wear a mask in all indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, especially in areas of high or substantial levels of COVID transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the CDC, all area counties except Gates were still seeing high rates of transmission as of Oct. 30. Gates was seeing substantial transmission. Health officials say the precautions remain necessary until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases.

Amy C. Underhill, public health education supervisor for ARHS, says it’s reasonable for people to look forward to holiday celebrations. Yet, this is no time to let your guard down. Precautions to remember while attending any gathering where other people are going to be include:

• Stay home when you are sick.


• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water are not available for washing.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Practice social distancing — staying at least 6 feet away from others

• Avoid unnecessary travel, avoid handshakes, hugs and other close contact situations

• Be courteous, but avoid sick people.

She also recommends practicing other good health habits. That includes getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, eating nutritious food, managing stress, and drinking plenty of fluids.