Holiday Harm Reduction

The best advice we can give for celebrating holidays this year is simple:


  • Visit with friends and family online.
  • Deliver or mail gifts.
  • Meet up for a chilly walk or other outside activities.

Make this a year for creating new traditions, or at the very last, trying out traditions that you’ll never do again.

IF you are planning an in-person gathering, here are some tactics for reducing risk of COVID-19 exposure for you and your guests.

  • Keep it small and limit the number of households attending. A gathering of six people from six different households poses a bigger risk of COVID-19 exposure than a gathering of 10 people from two households.
  • Avoid putting people with high-risk for COVID complications in harm’s way. You are not being rude if you do not include people over sixty or people living with conditions that put them at risk for severe illness if infected with COVID-19. Find ways to include those loved ones virtually or outside.
  • Ask guests to reduce exposures prior to the gathering. When you ask your guests to be vigilant about reducing their contacts with other people for the week (or two weeks) prior to the gathering, you are not being over-the-top. You are protecting them and you!
  • Consider getting a COVID test. Asking your guests to get a COVID test (and getting tested yourself) helps reduce unknown exposures. Molecular tests have the highest accuracy for preventative testing in people without COVID-19 symptoms. Depending on where you get your test, results could take 1 day or up to a week. Rapid tests are less accurate for people without COVID-19 symptoms. So be sure to get your test five days prior to the gathering, and then reduce contact with people outside your household once you’ve been tested.
  • Move your gathering outside. Chestnuts roasting over the a fire pit? Or next to a space heater? Even moving your guests outside for part of your gathering will reduce exposure risk.
  • Consider skipping the meal. Encourage friends and family to gather before or after a holiday meal, rather than during it. That way you can wear your masks the whole time you are together.
  • Spread out while eating. If you do share a meal, consider alternatives to gathering around the table. Set up chairs around the edge of the room. Remind guests to remain six-feet apart throughout the gathering.
  • Wear masks at all times when not eating. No exceptions.
  • Increase air circulation. Open windows. Turn on exhaust fans (stove and bathroom fans that move air out of the home, not fans that circulate air within the home).
  • Wash hands frequently. (Sing Happy Birthday twice. Review the World Health Organization handwashing method.)
  • Paper, not cloth. Remove cloth hand towels from the bathroom and replace with disposable paper towels for the day. Same with napkins.

Remember that every precaution you take will increase safety for yourself and those you love!