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Having a safe holiday: Experts recommend alternatives to in-person gatherings during COVID-19 surge

Family gatherings during the holidays will put you and your loved ones at greater risk of getting COVID-19. We asked M Health Fairview infection prevention experts for safe alternatives to shared meals and in-person events.

Holiday celebrations and get-togethers may look much different in 2020 and 2021 than other years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But is there a way to keep the laughter, joy, and spirit of the holidays alive while staying safe?

All in-person gatherings increase your exposure risk, according to M Health Fairview infection prevention experts Kristy Connors and Kathy Miller. For that reason, doctors and others from across our system recommend that families do not gather this year, given the surge in COVID-19 cases currently taking place in Minnesota.

“The fact is that gatherings, shared meals, and other group activities can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases which easily move from one person to another,” said Miller, who serves as lead infection preventionist at M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital.

“Everyone must shift their mindset to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Connors, an infection preventionist at M Health Fairview Woodwinds Hospital.

In place of traditional gatherings and shared meals, Connors and Miller shared some alternative celebration recommendations. Scroll down for their suggestions. Or visit our COVID-19 Resource Hub for information about COVID-19 symptoms, testing, and care.

Alternative holiday ideas

  • Prepare traditional recipes or treats for family and neighbors, especially for those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve physical contact, such as a door drop-off or mailing.
  • Play music in your home that your loved ones enjoy. Make a music video with those in your household and share it with family and friends.
  • Host a virtual “best decorated mask” contest to promote fun, creativity, and laughter. If you must wear a mask, why not bedazzle or personalize it?
  • Host or join a virtual get-together celebration. Make it one that brings joy for everyone.
  • Schedule a virtual ugly sweater contest.
  • Watch a special event or participate in a program from your own living room and talk about the highlights via a smartphone or virtual platform with others in your family. It’s a way to stay together while being apart.

“Snowflakes are frail on their own, but a bunch of snowflakes stuck together can stop traffic,” Miller said. “It’s the same thing with stopping COVID-19. We don’t have a vaccine for widespread distribution, but if we stick together and follow safe practices, we can prevent transmission.”