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Dec 02

Celebrating the Holidays Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted on December 2, 2020 at 2:09 PM by Heather Smith

Fall and winter holidays are a time of year when many people get together with extended family and friends outside their household. However, much like our day-to-day activities over the last several months, holidays are going to be a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When thinking about the holidays, it’s wise to assess health risks before you make plans.

The Loudoun County Health Department encourages residents to plan their holiday celebrations and travel carefully to lower the risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.. Talk with your family and friends and make plans together for socially distanced holiday celebrations. Those who choose to gather and travel over the holiday season should avoid high-risk activities.

“It is important that Loudoun residents consider the impact of the coronavirus on our festivities this year,” said Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “The potential for the virus to spread through traditional holiday activities is high and so I urge caution to keep your families safe throughout this holiday season.”

Lower-Risk Activities

Celebrating virtually or with members within your household poses the lowest risk for spread of COVID-19. While transmission of COVID-19 continues, the CDC recommends that families participate in these lower-risk activities that can be enjoyed with family and friends at a safe distance:
  • Small dinner gatherings with only people who live in your household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
  • Shopping online rather than in person.
  • Watching sports events, parades, movies and tree or menorah lighting ceremonies from home.
  • Send a letter to Santa in the mail.
  • Contact-free cookie exchanges or gift drop off for friends and family.
Moderate- and Higher-Risk Activities

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Health Department does not recommend participating in moderate- and higher-risk activities, which include:
  • Outdoor gatherings with family and friends in your community.
  • Attending indoor parties or gift exchanges. 
  • Attending outdoor or indoor sports events.
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside your household.
  • Going shopping in crowded stores.
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race.
  • Attending crowded parades and tree or menorah lighting ceremonies.
  • Sitting on Santa’s lap.
  • Ice skating, indoors on a crowded, small rink.
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors.
Learn more about how to safely host holiday gatherings and to safely participate in personal and social activities during the pandemic by visiting the CDC’s website.

Holiday Shopping 

When planning holiday shopping this year, staying home and shopping online is the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you choose to shop in-person, avoid crowded stores and take precautions. Everyone 5 years and older is required to wear a mask in all public settings and to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. 

Residents can find ways to support local businesses, online and in-person, in the Take Loudoun Home for the Holidays Guide. These business have taken the Loudoun Is Ready pledge in commitment to the best health and safety guidelines for customers.

 If You Travel

Traveling during this holiday season increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Many jurisdictions also have imposed local restrictions on visitors that may impact your travel plans. If you choose to travel during the holiday season, the CDC strongly encourages the following precautions: 
  • Do not travel if you are sick or have been around someone with COVID-19 within 14 days of travel.
  • Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and rail or bus stations.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The CDC's Travel Planner is a tool travelers can search to find COVID-19 information for the state and local communities they’re passing through and for their destinations. 

Learn more from the CDC about traveling safety during the pandemic and when to delay your travel to avoid spreading COVID-19

“There are a number of factors that increase the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus to others,” said Dr. Goodfriend. “These include the level of COVID-19 transmission in a community and whether events are indoors in places with poor ventilation for a longer durations of time, and the number of people gathering; considering these impacts in your holiday planning will help reduce your risk.”

Everyday Safety Precautions

As you plan your celebrations this holiday season, remember that each of us has a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Keep in mind the simple steps that everyone should take every day to help keep yourself, your family and your community safe. These steps include:
  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick; avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Maintain social distancing; stay at least 6 feet apart at all times from others who do not live in your household.
  • Wear a cloth face covering at all times when around people who don’t live in your household. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Get a flu vaccine. (Find a place to get vaccinated.)

Get detailed guidance for having a safe holiday season this year by visiting the CDC’s website.

Stay Informed
Loudoun County encourages residents to stay informed about about the impact COVID-19 has on our community.
  • Visit loudoun.gov/coronavirus for more information about how to protect yourself and your family and to sign up for email and text updates on COVID-19.
  • Opt in to receive text messages:
    • English: Text LCCOVID19 to 888777
    • Spanish: Text LCCOVIDESP to 88877
Residents with questions about COVID-19 may call the Loudoun County Health Department’s information line, 703-737-8300, or send an email.   

Community Partners Safe Holiday Communications Resources
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