Healthy holiday hosting for Health

Hosting small gatherings this holiday season can protect unvaccinated family members, including small children.

To the relief of many, the upcoming holiday season figures to feel more normal than it did a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic forced families to celebrate the 2020 holiday season in quarantine. Longtime family traditions like big gatherings might have been shelved in 2020, but the successful rollout of various vaccines has put such celebrations back in play in 2021.

Though it would be great to imagine a 2021 holiday season with COVID-19 well in the rearview mirror, the spread of potentially deadly variants of the virus and the relatively high number of eligible yet unvaccinated adults and children could make hosting the holidays a bit tricky. The following are some strategies hosts can employ to make this holiday season both special and safe.

Host small celebrations instead of one large one. Families accustomed to gathering en masse during the holiday season may benefit by hosting a small gathering or two instead of one big one. This can be especially important if families include a lot of unvaccinated people, like small children.

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Ask guests to wear a mask if anyone is concerned. The debate about masks is ongoing. While the vast majority of mask mandates had been lifted in the spring of 2021, concerns about the Delta variant prompted government officials and public health agencies to reconsider their mask guidelines. Families need not wait for government-issued mandates to help relatives ease their anxiety about variants of the virus. Hosts can explain to family members that if anyone on the guest list expresses concerns about the virus that they will ask everyone else to wear masks while celebrating indoors. Anyone unwilling to comply can celebrate outside or stay home and visit after concerned relatives have gone home.

Stick to the great outdoors. Families that gather in mild climates for the holidays can reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus by keeping celebrations outdoors. Public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have noted the virus is considerably less likely to spread outdoors, as researchers have learned fresh air disperses and dilutes the virus. So celebrating outdoors this holiday season can provide a measure of protection for family members who are not vaccinated.

The 2021 holiday season should mark a welcome return to normalcy for many families. However, holiday hosts may still need to implement some safety measures to protect their friends and families.

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