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With the holiday season almost here, discussions are being held to determine the best practice to celebrate without putting ourselves in the path of the coronavirus.  Older adults need to be exceptionally careful, especially those with high blood pressure, heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.  These Seniors face a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19.

In-Person or Virtual?

Holidays are a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the season.  It is understandable that many still want to get together and celebrate the season.  Your decision on whether to stay at home or get together face to face needs to be based on your own health, risk factors and how your community (or the area you plan to visit) is faring.  Before you make your plans, check local transmission rates.  According to researchers at John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there should be a two-week decrease in COVID-19 cases and a low overall rate (less than 10 per 100,000 people over 14 days).  

If you are in an area with high levels of COVID-19, it is wise to stay home even if you are otherwise in good health and have no preexisting conditions according to practitioners at the Cleveland Clinic.

Virtual Holiday

Should you choose to celebrate this holiday separately from your family and friends, make it memorable.

  • Connect via a digital platform, such as Zoom.  This allows you to do everything from sitting at your Thanksgiving dinner table, watching grandkids open presents or singing favorite songs on a computer.
  • Overhaul your traditions.  Mix up a favorite holiday recipe and send out to everyone! 
  • Create new virtual traditions.  Host a game night on an app called Pogo.  Or watch your favorite holiday movie simultaneously via an app called Netflix Party.
  • Schedule several virtual tours for the holidays. The Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art offer many options.

Face to Face Celebrations

In person celebrations are not perfectly safe.  However, a few steps can reduce risks significantly.

  • Wear a mask.  Social distance and wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay as local as possible.  Stay within a 2-hour drive from home.  This minimizes the need to stop along the way.
  • Plan for small and short.  The fewer people you are with, the lower the overall risk.  Keep indoor get-togethers under 10 people and limit to 1 hour. 
  • Bring your own.  Ideally, everyone should have their own food and utensils.  Takeout is an option.  Ask for food to be packed in separate containers for each person.
  • Try staggered eating times, so people from the same household can eat together at the same table.  Consider eating with spaced-out seating.
  • Limit alcohol.   The more people drink,  it is challenging to stay masked and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Skip the singalongs.  When people sing, small aerosol particles are released into the air and may propel the virus into your 6-foot safety zone.
  • Wash your own dishes to limit cross-contamination
  • Paper plates are safer to use than regular dishes
  • Wipe and sanitize common areas
  • Do not use serving utensils or pass dishes

Remember to pass on the hugs and keep everyone safe.   Be Well this holiday season.

Written by Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County  lobb.3@osu.edu

References:

Centers of Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

Illinois  Department of Health:

https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/holiday-season-safety-tips

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