Those looking to celebrate the winter holidays this year are recommended to do so in small groups or through virtual gatherings, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal health officials recommend celebrating with members of your own household: anyone who lives in the same house or apartment, whether they are related or unrelated to you.

“In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk,” the CDC website states.

Those varying levels of risk depend on several factors, including local community spread, means of transport to get to the gathering, whether it takes place indoors or outdoors, whether attendees have practiced social distancing prior to the gathering, and whether attendees observe social distancing during the gathering itself, according to the CDC.

People who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days should not attend in-person gatherings, federal guidelines state; people who are at increased risk for severe illness or who live with people who are at increased risk should not go to gatherings with people outside of their household.

If you are planning to host or attend a celebration with people outside of your household, the CDC has some safety tips:

  • Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live to determine whether it is safe for you to host or attend a gathering.
  • Avoid contact with people outside of your household for at least 14 days before the gathering.
  • People from different households should wear masks and remain at least six feet apart at all times. Avoid direct contact, such as handshakes and hugs, with people who are not members of your household.
  • Hold a gathering outside, rather than inside, whenever possible. People at outdoor gatherings should still wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • If an event is held indoors, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that it is possible.
  • Avoid singing or shouting, especially at indoor gatherings.
  • Treat pets like human family members—don’t let your pets interact with people outside of your household.

There isn’t currently any evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is directly spread by handling food or eating food, according to the CDC, but it’s possible that a person could contract the virus by touching food, food packaging or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own face. While health officials don’t believe this is the main way the virus is spread, the CDC still recommends following food safety practices such as:

  • Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for members of their own household and have potluck-style dinners.
  • Wear a mask while preparing or serving food to people who don’t live in your household.
  • Limit contact with commonly-touched objects or surfaces, such as serving utensils, and have one person serve all the food so that multiple people aren’t handling the utensils.

For a more detailed list of holiday safety recommendations, visit the CDC’s website at https://bit.ly/3nawFT5.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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