In 2020, the pandemic served up dish after dish of canceled holiday plans for many Americans. Extended family members backed out of travel plans and caught up on Zoom instead of over turkey or ham. This year, the delta variant may also keep many people from planning in-person family celebrations. However, now that millions of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19, many families are eager to resume their holiday traditions. It's important to follow some family gathering tips to help everyone stay safe during get-togethers, especially if you or your loved ones are 65 or older.
Older adults are in a high-risk group for COVID-19 since the chances of getting severely ill from COVID-19 increases with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you're an older adult and vaccinated, your risk of getting seriously ill, hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 is considerably lower than for someone who isn't vaccinated. Yet sometimes people who've been vaccinated against COVID will get a "breakthrough" case of the virus, since no vaccine available has 100% efficacy.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to lock down at home for another round of pandemic holidays. Here are 5 family gathering tips to help you enjoy safer holiday celebrations.
1. Allow Time to Be Fully Vaccinated
If you haven't been vaccinated and plan to get the vaccine before the holidays, allow enough time to be fully vaccinated before gathering with other people. If you get either the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine series — administered three and four weeks apart, respectively — you're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is fully effective two weeks after you get the shot.
2. Plan Outdoor or Semi-Outdoor Gatherings
Since COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors than outside, the CDC recommends avoiding crowded, unventilated areas for holiday gatherings. If you live somewhere warm, plan to gather outdoors on a festively decorated patio or deck. Consider renting a large outdoor space heater like the kind used on restaurant patios. If you live in a wintry climate, you can still host a holiday party or dinner gathering in a semi-enclosed porch or even a spacious garage with well-placed space heaters.
3. Know the Risk of Everyone Attending
No one wants to interrogate their cousins about vaccination status before getting together for the holidays. However, to stay safe, you need to know who is vaccinated and who is not. That way, you can make an informed choice about whether you want to attend, whom to sit close to and whom you may want to wear a mask around or keep at a safe distance.
4. Maintain Social Distance and Wear a Mask
It's a good idea to maintain six feet of social distance and wear a mask at indoor holiday gatherings, even if you're fully vaccinated. So, if Aunt Sophie is a close talker who likes to lean in, you may have to politely set a boundary. By now, we all know what social distance is, so respectfully ask for your space, letting others know you want to keep them safe, too.
5. Get Tested Before Gathering
To avoid spreading the virus, get tested for COVID-19 before attending holiday gatherings, and ask others to do the same.
With these family gathering tips in hand, you can now start planning holiday family gatherings while keeping the best public health guidance in mind. That way, you can all begin the new year in good health.