Infectious Disease

Safely Celebrate Holidays in the COVID-19 Era


How are we going to do this?! I think by now we have the basics down to keep ourselves safe: limit people at gatherings, limit duration, outdoors is best, wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, yadda, yadda, yadda. But what about the intricacies of the upcoming holidays? In my [albeit small] world, folks I know have been celebrating holidays with only their own households, and we’ve seen birthday parties turn into drive-by parades. But the fall holidays bring up a new set of hurdles to work around. The CDC has recently updated their recommendations to safely celebrate holidays, which I’ve outlined for you below.

Halloween

If your municipality is still allowing traditional trick-or-treating activities — check here to see if your state has issued any guidelines — the ideas below may help you navigate this new normal in holiday celebrations.

A discussion with my family generated the ideas of wearing masks (protective ones, of course, not creepy clown) and using tongs to distribute tricks or treats to the ghosts and goblins ringing our bells. As for the collected candy, my brother – a mobile intensive care paramedic in New Jersey – suggested leaving the candy untouched for some time so any potential viral droplets would die off. The CDC states,1 “current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” however it is unclear if those are just hard surfaces or includes food packaging. They also note, “it is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread.”2

Of course, it will be difficult to keep candy away from the kids that night, or even en route! Perhaps the promise of a quarantined stash ready for when they return home (while the procured batch from the evening’s crusade airs out) would restrain your sneaky snackers.

Expand for alternative, low-risk activities for Halloween:

  • Carve pumpkins with members of your household or with friends outside
  • Hold a virtual costume contest
  • Hold a candy scavenger hunt on your property

Read more safe Halloween alternatives here >>

 

Día de los Muertos “Day of the Dead”

Traditionally, this 2-day Mexican holiday celebrates the reuniting of the dead with the living through decorated altars, prayer, food and celebrations. Typical large gatherings are not recommended this year. Instead, the CDC offers these safer alternatives:

Expand for alternative, low-risk activities for Día de los Muertos:

  • Prepare/deliver traditional family recipes to others in a no-contact way
  • Play music in your home that your deceased loved ones enjoyed
  • Decorate masks and altars for the deceased

Read more safe Day of the Dead alternatives here >>

 

Thanksgiving

Mmm… the sizzle of a turkey basting in buttery nectar, a gooey sweet potato soufflé and the sweet perfume of pumpkin pie…. Sorry, I haven’t eaten yet today. I wonder if stores will be selling smaller turkeys this year, with gatherings likely not as grand?

Expand for alternative, low-risk activities for Thanksgiving:

  • Celebrate live with your immediate household, but coordinate with your other typical guests on a conferencing platform, like Zoom! Everyone can prepare the same, traditional family menu too (and argue about who made it best)!
  • Prepare/deliver traditional family recipes to others in a no-contact way
  • Shop online Black Friday weekend

Read more safe Thanksgiving alternatives here >>

We’ve got some time until Christmas; maybe we won’t need to skip Santa’s lap after all? Stay safe, America!

1Centers for Disease Control, “Cleaning and Disinfection for Households”
2Centers for Disease Control, “Holiday Celebrations: Halloween”

 

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MORE RESOURCES

HuffPost, “22 Easy Recipes You Can Make with Pantry Staples”
Environmental Protection Agency, “6 Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use”

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