It's been a long time since we've gathered with friends and loved ones. For many of us, this holiday season might be the first time in two years we're planning to travel or celebrate with more than just our immediate families. As we look forward to reconnecting, it's important to do so safely by keeping important guidelines in mind.
When participating in parties and outings, ensure you're taking appropriate steps to limit the chance of spreading or contracting COVID-19:
- Follow CDC guidelines. Recent CDC guidelines reinforce the key to a safe holiday: getting vaccinated. CDC leadership are encouraging all Americans to get vaccinated prior to the holidays. If you have children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine, make sure the people they are in close contact with are vaccinated in order to limit the chance of transmission. It might be uncomfortable, but asking guests ahead of time if they are vaccinated will help protect you and your family. Keep in mind that CDC guidelines concerning booster shots are evolving, so continue to watch for updates.
- Open the window. Although the weather may be cooler, keeping the windows open in a small space can bring in fresh air and improve ventilation. And when possible, hold gatherings outside rather than inside.
- Keep a mask on hand. It's always a good idea to mask up when spending time in crowded areas. Masks are an easy, safe way to help control the spread of not only COVID-19, but seasonal flus that may be going around. California state guidelines still require the use of masks in public areas, healthcare facilities and more.
- Wash your hands often. Keep your hands clean with soap and warm water — especially if you're in a new environment, hugging others, picking up food or handling multiple items like gifts.
General Holiday Safety
While it's certainly important to follow CDC guidelines as we return to more pre-pandemic activities, there are also general safety tips that become increasingly important around the holidays:
- Don't drink and drive. Drunk driving is always a concern, but the number of DUI citations increases significantly every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's. If you plan to drink at all, don't drive. Either have a designated driver, or use a ride sharing service such as Uber or Lyft. The California state limit is 0.08% for anyone 21 years of age or older. For most people that means anything more than two drinks will put you over the legal limit.
- Prevent accidents. The holiday season can mean an increased risk of falls and injuries. If you'll be hanging lights on your house, ensure you have a sturdy ladder, a good balance, and somebody nearby to assist and help prevent an accident. Be careful with cords and dangling decorations both inside and outside the house that could cause tripping.
- Manage stress. Although it can be fun to get together with family and friends, it can also bring stress. Find healthy ways to manage frustrations and anxiety, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing or a walk in the park.
- Remember fire safety. The majority of household fires occur during colder months. Keep a vigilant eye on fireplaces, candles, space heaters and stovetops. Don't leave them unattended.
- Practice food safety. Avoid cross contamination by washing down surfaces, cleaning utensils and maintaining a safe cooking station. Keep food refrigerated and stored to its proper temperature to prevent food poisoning and illness.
The video calls and porch drop-offs that were so common last year may have dampened your holiday spirit. But with the majority of our state population now vaccinated, this year should be a bit more cheery. The future's looking brighter but we're not out of the woods yet. Stay vigilant and continue to follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines and general holiday safety tips to fully enjoy the season.
This article first appeared in the November 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.