The holidays are usually a time for family gatherings, office parties and exchanging gifts with friends.
But COVID-19 has changed how we do everything.
How should you navigate the holidays this year? Take our quiz to find out.
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OR TREE FARM
NEW YEAR'S EVE
WHAT'S YOUR RISK?
We asked our medical experts to rate some of the things
you may want to do this holiday season in the era of COVID-19.
Click or tap on the icons below to quiz yourself and assess the risks.
Disclaimer: This is general risk assessment advice and does not guarantee any particular outcome as many factors can contribute to one’s susceptibility to COVID-19 including personal health, individual immunity levels, or prior exposure. It is advised that individuals check with their individual health care provider for recommendations and guidance specific to their own health situation.
PICK THE RISK
The kids have been cooped up at home doing distance learning and you don’t want to let coronavirus ruin all your holiday traditions. You head to an outdoor pumpkin patch or Christmas tree farm and let the kids run around to pick out their favorite ones. You’re all wearing masks, except when you get together to pose for a family picture.
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CLICK PLAY TO HEAR WHY
The fact that this is outdoors goes a long way in making it a relatively safe activity. Enjoy the tiny touch of normalcy!
PICK THE RISK
Your place of worship has been allowed to reopen and you’d like to attend a holiday service. The service is indoors at 50% capacity. Congregants are supposed to keep their distance from one another, but everyone is so happy to see familiar faces that they quickly break the 6-feet rule. Many people are wearing masks properly, but you notice more than one nose peeking out among the crowd. The congregants have been asked to stay silent during service to avoid spreading more germs than necessary.
A small congregation, in a well-ventilated place, in a community with low transmission could be on the lower side of the risk spectrum. However, this scenario as it’s laid out is quite risky.
You couldn’t be more stir crazy and need a bit of holiday cheer. You opt to attend an outdoor community gathering, like a menorah lighting or to a Christmas tree lighting, for example. You only go with members of your household. There’s a big crowd, but everyone is spread out and wearing masks, more or less respecting each other's space.
As long as folks are respecting social distancing and mask wearing, it’s relatively low risk to go see the holiday lights, or whatever brings your family joy.
You’ve been away from family too long and decide to go home for the holidays. They live a few states away and you opt to fly since it’s fastest. You wear a mask and gloves in the airport and on the airplane. You take the first flight of the morning to avoid crowds and take advantage of the overnight cleaning of the plane. The airport isn’t crowded and you maintain social distance. On the plane, you get the window seat. There’s no one in the middle seat but there is another passenger in the aisle seat. All passengers and crew are wearing masks. The flight is a few hours long.
When mask wearing is enforced and seats are blocked off to reduce capacity, the risk of flying is relatively low, say our experts.
You’re trying to shop local this holiday season to support small businesses. You head to your local downtown and browse the stores, using hand sanitizer before entering and respecting each business’s capacity limits. As is required, everyone – employees and shoppers – are wearing masks the whole time.
Just to be safe, why not opt for online orders or curbside pickup? You can still support local businesses and do what you can to curb COVID-19 spread, as well.
You drive to visit the grandparents in a city where there have been COVID-19 cases, but it’s not out of control. Three days before visiting, everyone gets tested for the virus and all results are negative. Instead of staying in a hotel, you and your kids stay in their guest room. Other than one family outing to the zoo, everyone pretty much just hangs out at the house all weekend. Everyone washes their hands a lot, but you don’t wear masks when you’re indoors because you want things to feel a little normal.
Despite the precautions this family is taking, there’s still a sizable risk because of the grandparents’ vulnerability to the virus. Seeing elderly relatives outside and at a distance is always safer.
It’s been so long since you’ve seen your extended family, you forgot how much they drive you crazy and decide to invite them all over for a holiday dinner. Everyone promises that they have been good about social distancing in their lives, so you don’t make anyone get tested before coming over. You washed your hands before you started cooking and everyone washes their hands before eating, but no one wears masks while they’re eating (obviously!) and your table is nowhere near big enough to keep people spaced out by 6 feet.
Do you really know everywhere your family has been over the past two weeks? Many outbreaks have been traced back to multihousehold social gatherings, which makes this high risk.
Where you come from, it’s not the holidays without gifts. You go over to a close friend’s house for a gift exchange with a group of eight people. Everyone wears masks, but there’s some raucous gift unwrapping and socializing going on, and you don’t stay 6 feet apart.
Moving this shindig outdoors and actually staying 6 feet apart would help lower the risk considerably.
It’s a special occasion and nothing sounds less fun than cooking at home. You decide to make a reservation for a big dinner out with your 10 closest friends (who you don’t live with). The restaurant limits you to a max party size of six people indoors, so you book two tables near each other and hope no one will care if you play a bit of musical chairs. All restaurant employees are masked, per COVID-19 requirements, but once you sit down everyone in the party takes their masks off.
The rules are there for a reason. Flaunting them shows disregard for the health of your friends and service workers.
2020 is about to be over (finally!) and it’s time to celebrate. You send out a mass text to 20 friends and tell them to come over, as long as they aren’t feeling sick. Most of them are wearing masks when they show up, but that doesn’t last very long once people come inside, start drinking and snacking on the chips and salsa you put out. Your guests make some attempt to stand apart at the beginning of the night, but as more people arrive and more drinks are consumed, there’s less of a concerted effort. The party is indoors because it’s cold outside.
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Is ending up on the news for hosting a COVID-19 super-spreader event your New Year’s resolution? Just don’t do it.
Your parents have been begging you to come home since before the pandemic even started. You decide to drive to minimize contact, only stopping for food and gas on the way. Since some of your relatives have pre-existing health conditions, you get tested before you go. You feel pretty confident your parents have basically been sheltering in place, but when you show up, you see your cousin is back from her college campus and visiting. Plus, your Uncle Ted shows up and who knows where he has been, but you stay anyways because you don’t want to be rude.
College campuses around the country have been at the center of COVID-19 outbreaks, making your cousin a potential risk factor. And that Uncle Ted? He’s always a risk factor.
Your gym is reopened and it’s your New Year’s resolution to get back in shape. You wear a mask when you walk into the gym and decide not to use the locker room. Check-in is totally contactless. You do a quick wipe-down of the equipment with a disinfecting wipe before using it. You run on the treadmill to warm up then use the weight machines. Once you start working out, you notice several people around you with their masks pulled down around their necks or under their noses. The gym capacity is limited, so it’s not hard to stay about 6 feet away from others.
The fact that people are wearing their masks incorrectly – or not at all – and no one is saying anything should probably concern you.