Stay Safe from COVID-19 During the Holidays: Avoid Gatherings
You may be wondering if it is safe to gather and celebrate with loved ones during holidays or special occasions.
COVID-19 spreads easily between people. As many as half of those infected have no symptoms - but they can still spread the disease to others. Throughout the pandemic, social gatherings have been a significant source of COVID-19 spread.
Being in community gives us meaning. Sadly, this easily spreading virus now lurks among us at an unprecedented level. Even small, outdoor, masked gatherings are unsafe during this period of extreme threat. Until we turn around the current surge we must find ways to stay connected without being physically together.
Strategies for talking to friends and family about not gathering
Saying no to people we love is never easy. Declining an invitation or suggesting a change to longstanding holiday plans may mean disappointing loved ones. But knowing how to say no is the first step to protecting your health and the health of people you care about. These strategies may help when having the "COVID chat":
Prepare ahead of time. Write down your reasons for choosing not to meet in person during this period of heightened threat. If you're anxious about the conversation, gain confidence by rehearsing what you will say on your own or with a friend, partner, or in the mirror.
Be firm and direct. State your decision clearly at the beginning of the conversation. If you stall or waver, you may give the impression that you are open to negotiation. Remember, a simple, direct no, is the best way to make yourself understood and closes the door for negotiations.
Acknowledge your own sadness. Make it clear that you are avoiding gatherings because of the virus, not because of your feelings about the person you are speaking with. If you are sad and disappointed to not be able to see them in person, say so. Tell them you miss them and that you are tired of the pandemic too.
Stay focused on your own comfort level. Be clear that you are making a personal decision based on your own risk tolerance. Use I statements. Don't get into a debate about the seriousness of COVID-19. It may help to frame your decision around concern for others, such as "I don't want to be responsible for putting you at risk."
Listen. Loved ones who were looking forward to seeing you may be hurt, disappointed, or angry at a change in plans. Take the time to listen to them and acknowledge their emotions without arguing. Be understanding if they need time to process their feelings.
Suggest alternatives - and follow through. Remind them that you still care about them and that there are other ways to stay connected. Offer to host a video call while cooking or eating dinner, or to drop off their favorite dish. Even if they are not interested in replacing a planned in-person event with a virtual one this time, you can make an effort to call or text to say hi more often.
COVID-19 doesn't take holidays off. For the health of our whole community, please reconsider plans to gather in person during this period, while the virus is threatening our health care system, and take steps to limit the risk if you do attend an event.
If anyone in your household develops COVID-19 symptoms after attending a gathering:
- Get tested for COVID-19
- Notify the other attendees as soon as possible regarding the potential exposure
- Stay home as much as possible for 14 days after the gathering or until household member tests negative
- Avoid being around people who have higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19