Celebrating Safely This Holiday Season

Published on: 11/12/2020

With COVID-19 pandemic posing risks to gatherings of family and friends, can you still celebrate safely during this holiday season?

Filipinos are known to have the longest celebration of the Christmas holiday season. As early as September, we can already hear Christmas carols being played in the malls and decors being set up in homes and offices. 

However, it is already apparent that this year would be different. In these challenging times, much consideration is now needed in planning how to celebrate the holidays.  

It was early November when the Department of Health (DOH) urged to push for safe holiday celebrations this year. DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire, acknowledged the spirit of the holidays, but reminded the public that a COVID-free status would be the greatest blessing.

The Risks

Most people may be looking forward to gatherings during the holidays to reconnect with their family and friends. But with large gatherings, close-contact settings, and confined places being high-risk factors for COVID-19 transmission, it is deemed important to modify Christmas celebrations this year. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), either a virtual celebration or a gathering of the members of your own household poses the lowest risk of spreading the virus in your home. “Own household” refers to those living in your housing unit, regardless if they are related to you or not. As such, other family members who do not currently live in your home (such as relatives who may have been stranded in a different area during the quarantine) should be regarded as part of a different household.

Keep Updated

It is important that you are aware of, and adhere to, the community quarantine guidelines in your area. President Rodrigo Duterte bared the new quarantine classifications in the country for the month of December. 

The National Capital Region (NCR) and several other provinces are still under general community quarantine (GCQ). Meanwhile, the rest of the country is placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

Considerations for Your Small Gatherings

Limiting the number of people should be first and foremost on your list. A small gathering will enable you to celebrate more safely because of less exposure. If the attendees are coming from different households, the space of the venue should allow them to stay at least 6 feet apart from each other. 

Here are some more things to consider when planning your holidays this year:

  • Opt for activities with a short duration of contact - Shorter gatherings pose less risk than those that last longer. Keep in mind that being within six feet of someone who may have the virus for a cumulative total of 15 minutes greatly increases your risk of becoming sick.

  • Minimize exposure to traveling - Areas of public transportation such as airports, train stations, bus stations, and even gas stations are all places you (or your guests) can be exposed to the virus, whether in the air and on surfaces.

  • Ensure proper ventilation - Indoor gatherings, especially when held at small enclosed spaces (such as residential units with no access to outside air) can pose more risk. If possible, opt for venues outside where there is proper ventilation. 

  • Ask attendees to follow safety measures - It is essential that everyone understands the need to keep the celebration as safe as possible. Social distancing, wearing of masks, and washing/sanitizing of hands should be practiced throughout the gathering. 

  • Keep music levels down - This would prevent people from shouting or speak loudly to be heard. Remember that the virus can spread through saliva and respiratory secretions.

  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces - High-touch surfaces and all shared items should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, as much as possible. The CDC suggests assigning one person with a mask to serve all the food so there is less handling of the serving utensils.

  • Those with certain medical conditions should avoid the gathering - If you or someone who lives in your household has certain medical conditions (such as older adults, cancer patients, pregnant women, etc.) that places them at greater risk for severe illness from the virus, then it is best to avoid these in-person gatherings.

After the Celebration

Extra precaution is still needed after the event, especially if you have been in contact with a lot of persons from different households. If you think you might have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, get tested immediately and stay at home as much as possible. If you experience the symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, or shortness of breath) make sure that you notify those who attended the gathering.  This way, they can also get tested, stay home, and stay away from other people. 

Evidently, holiday celebrations are traditions that we cannot easily let go of. Nonetheless, we must consider all the risk factors involved when planning our gatherings. While these changes and modifications may take some effort to implement, we must put a premium on our health and safety, and those of our loved ones’ as well.