Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the greatest challenges for many people has been staying away from family and friends. After months of social isolation, most people are craving human connection and physical touch. This is especially true for those who live alone because their household only consists of one person, meaning that their contact with other people is extremely minimal. With the holiday season approaching, many are feeling the yearning to visit their loved ones and give them a hug grow stronger than ever, and for good reason — the longer social isolation continues, the harder it gets. The onset of seasonal depression for thousands of people only serves to heighten their sense of loneliness.
While social distancing has been extremely challenging and had a negative effect on many people’s mental health, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is also very important. No one wants to put their loved ones at risk, especially if they are elderly or immunocompromised. So how can people balance protecting the physical health of themselves and their loved ones with taking care of their mental health? After all, some of the people who are at the highest risk, such as elderly people in long-term care homes, are also the ones who are the most isolated and depressed. With the holidays approaching, not interacting with family and friends at all feels like an impossibility, but having a typical large holiday celebration may be irresponsible. Here are a few tips on how to make holiday gatherings as safe as possible this year.
Keep It Small
While it is undoubtedly tempting to celebrate with every aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandparent, one of the best ways to keep everyone safe is to gather in smaller groups. This may mean that only the immediate family physically gathers together and then they video chat with the extended family to include them in the celebration. While it may not be the ideal way to celebrate, having some loved ones together is better than none. The best gift that anyone can give their loved ones this holiday season is making sure the whole family stays healthy so that everyone can get together again when the pandemic is over.
Gathering indoors can increase the spread of COVID-19, but depending on where you live, an outdoor gathering may or may not be practical. Where possible, gathering with loved ones outside is the safest strategy — an outdoor heater or fire pit could be used to offset a bit of the chill. However, for those who live in colder climates, sitting outside in the snow just doesn’t make sense. One way to make indoor gatherings slightly safer is to open some windows to improve ventilation. The more that the air in the room can circulate, the less likely it is that droplets will be able to spread from person to person.
Share Test Results
While it is important to remember that a negative test result is not a guarantee of safety, it can give a little extra peace of mind to know that everyone at a holiday gathering has recently tested negative for COVID-19. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using the COVID PreCheck App, which allows users to share the results of a recent self-assessment test or a negative lab test with anyone else who has the app. The Virtual Handshake feature allows individuals to quickly and easily inform others of their status. Using this feature at holiday gatherings makes it easier for people to feel comfortable among their loved ones, knowing that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is low.
Although there is no way to completely eliminate the spread of COVID-19 at indoor gatherings, it is possible to reduce the risk. Moderation is the key; if people can limit the size of gatherings, increase ventilation when they are indoors, and use the COVID PreCheck App to share test results among family and friends, it is possible to make holiday gatherings a little safer without eliminating them entirely. Even when these precautions are taken, it is important to be as responsible as possible, practice frequent handwashing, and keep indoor gatherings to a minimum to ensure everyone’s safety this holiday season.