Sep 22, 2020 - Health

CDC releases holiday season guidance to curb COVID-19 spread

Illustration of a line of people ascending in age, with a coronavirus over the young people in the middle
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued holiday-specific guidelines this week to limit COVID-19 risks posed by gatherings and celebrations prior to the fall and winter holidays.

Why it matters: With the flu season just around the corner, medical experts are worried about the likelihood of battling COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. The coronavirus has now killed 200,000 Americans, and the U.S. is averaging roughly 830 per day. Cases and deaths could worsen again as the weather gets colder and people move indoors.

The CDC published safe celebration alternatives.

General considerations:

  • Virtual gatherings or those that include one’s immediate household are among the lowest risk.
  • Outdoor activities are preferable to those held inside, the agency noted. If an event cannot take place outside, people should increase ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  • Gatherings with people who travel pose a heightened risk as opposed to those with attendees who live in the same area.
  • Guests should stay updated on COVID-19 safety guidelines and take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • There should be extra masks, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and tissues available at gatherings.
  • Alcohol and drug use can impair judgement and increase risky behavior.

Lower-risk Halloween activities:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance.
  • Instead of traditional trick-or-treating, an outdoor Halloween scavenger hunt where children can admire decorations at a distance.
  • Virtual Halloween activities, such as costume contests or movie nights.
  • "One-way trick-or-treating" where individually wrapped bags are presented at a safe distance.
  • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that cover the nose and mouth and don't leave gaps around the face.

Lower-risk Thanksgiving and winter holiday activities:

  • Prepare traditional family recipes and deliver in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Gift shopping online rather than in-person.
  • Visit pumpkin patches or orchards while wearing masks and where visitors use hand sanitizer.
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