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Your Party, Your Rules: How To Set Holiday Guidelines During The Pandemic

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The holidays are here, and COVID still is, too. Preliminary info on the omicron variant looks hopeful; Dr. Anthony Fauci says that it is almost certainly not as severe as delta. That is good news. But it doesn’t mean that we should throw all caution to the wind. We still have to have our guard up and remain safe, and that means putting some holiday guidelines in place.

There is not enough data gathered to say definitively how omicron will affect the population, so the CDC is still recommending that the best form of defense will be vaccination (and boosters for applicable age groups). There is still a possibility of breakthrough infections in the vaccinated, so we need to remain cautious, particularly in public spaces where there are large crowds of people. Keep your mask handy, social distance, and wash your hands regularly.

Should we cancel our holiday plans?

Not necessarily. With vaccinations being available to everyone age five and older, many more people will be fully vaccinated (and even boosted) by the holidays. If your family and friends are vaccinated, then there is relatively low risk. But it isn’t out of the question, and gathering outside isn’t a bad idea.

What about mixing those who are vaccinated and those who are not?

Those situations should probably still include masking and social distancing practices. Yes, it can be a pain, but it is for everyone’s safety. No one wants to get sick, so we shouldn’t put ourselves in that position if we can avoid it.

Kids invited to a party? There is absolutely no reason that you cannot ask the vaccination status of parents and their children if you want to know. If they are not vaccinated, mask up. Or, just pass on the party. There should be no hard feelings if you are trying to keep your family safe and healthy.

Whatever you do, don’t apologize to potential guests for feeling the need to put some COVID safety rules in place. “This isn’t a decision about whether you want to spend time with them,” Dr. Curley Bonds, the L.A. County mental health department’s chief medical officer, tells The Los Angeles Times. “It’s more about wanting to be safe, and I think it’s really important to be honest about that.”

If you are having a party, you set the holiday guidelines. If people don’t want to attend, that’s up to them. What can you do?

Keep the gathering small.

It is still prudent to have parties in small groups. The larger the party, the bigger the risk. If you are going to gather in large groups, mask up.

Ask about your guests’ vaccination status.

If you are going to be entertaining, you should know if your guests are fully vaccinated or not. Sure, asking the question can be awkward, but it’s important — and you aren’t the only one doing it. Just ask casually and without judgment. “Tell your story and explain why it is important to you,” psychologist Chivonna Childs, Ph.D., tells the Cleveland Clinic. “Don’t use it as an opportunity to tell someone why they’re wrong. There’s no reason to become the Lord of Vaccination.”

If you are mixing groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, masks should be worn and social distancing should be practiced.

Gather outdoors if you can.

It is still a good idea to be outside to be safest. This is particularly the case if you are mixing guests who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Yes, there are ways to gather comfortably outdoors even in the cold.

Wash your hands often.

This may seem like a given, but clean hands help to prevent the spread of illness. We are in the midst of cold and flu season as well as COVID and there is nothing worse than being sick during the holidays. Have the hand sanitizer readily available for your guests to use.

Enjoy the get-togethers, but be smart and put some holiday guidelines in place first. Don’t let your guard down because things are improving. We are doing our best right now to eliminate this virus. Encourage your family and friends to get vaccinated so that we can go into the New Year happy and healthy.

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