Contributed by UCI MIND Nurse Practitioner, Catherine McAdams-Ortiz, MSN, RN, A/GNP
Have you noticed the Holiday decorations popping up at shopping malls already? Yes, the Holiday Season is upon us.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to carefully plan our social gatherings, meals, and guests in our homes. Hopefully, you will find some helpful hints here so you can safely navigate all the Holidays you will celebrate this year. The very best gift you can give yourself, your loved ones and your friends is to make sure you get your flu vaccine as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that grocery stores and malls will be getting more crowded as we move closer to the Holidays. Consider ordering your groceries online and having them delivered to your home or ordering online and picking up your completed order at the store. It will be safer to use environmentally friendly and disposable plates, cups, and flatware at your home if you are planning on having guests.
Be sure to provide a mask and hand sanitizer for each of your guests as they enter your home, and hand sanitizer at each table and in each bathroom. It is a good idea to switch out reusable cloth hand towels for disposable guest towels.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a very detailed website with a list of which activities for Holiday gatherings pose the highest risk during this pandemic. You can find them on the internet at cdc.gov. Large gatherings of family and friends are being discouraged this year, unless you can plan on having a virtual get together. One of the activities the CDC mentions that would pose a low risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus is a small dinner party with only members of your immediate household.
In October, the California Department of Public Health issued guidelines to all Californians. The guidelines contain mandatory requirements for private gatherings. Please visit their website at cdph.ca.gov. The CDPH recommends the smaller the number of guests the better, but anything more than three households in attendance is “prohibited”. The longer the duration of the gathering, the higher the risk of transmitting the virus. No gathering should be longer than two hours. The host of the gathering should plan on collecting the names and contact information of each person in attendance, on the off chance that contact tracing should become necessary.
It is safer to hold gatherings outdoors. Weather permitting, plan on setting up tables and chairs a minimum of six feet apart. Careful planning for the seating of children, elderly, or people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 is very important. Name tags placed at each guest’s assigned seat is a smart idea. Buffet-style sharing of the same serving utensils is discouraged. Assigning one person the task of refilling drinks or plates as needed will decrease the chance of too many people moving about in a small space.
At Holiday gatherings, favorite pastimes for many include watching a ballgame together on television, singing, chanting, or playing musical instruments. This year, we must be careful if planning on engaging in these activities. These activities are considered high risk and highly discouraged, as the virus is spread through droplets and aerosols. If you will be engaging in any of these activities, be vigilant and wear a mask while maintaining a minimum of six feet between you and the person nearest you.
There are many other considerations for this Holiday Season, such as the safest way to travel, if you must. The CDC website has excellent recommendations where travel is concerned.
No matter how you celebrate each of the Holidays this year, please know that your team at UCI MIND wishes you a Happy, Healthy, and Safe Season.
Catherine McAdams-Ortiz, MSN, RN, A/GNP is a Nurse Practitioner for the UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.