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5 Ways to Celebrate Safely with Higher-Risk Loved Ones this Holiday Season

Please note: The content of this article was accurate on the day of publication. For the most up-to-date information and recommendations, visit the CDC website.

The COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the United States. And as much as we’d all like to carry on with the holiday traditions we love, it’s safer to make some changes this year. Taking precautions to prevent COVID-19 is especially important to help protect the seniors and people with chronic conditions in your family.

Sarah Payne, DO, a hospice and palliative care specialist at Banner Health in Arizona, offers some creative suggestions for celebrating safely.

1. Get together for a virtual activity

“Virtual holidays are safest, and there are a lot of fun things you can do,” Dr. Payne said. You and your family might not be enthusiastic about sitting in front of your computer and chatting. How about doing something else together virtually?

  • Send out gingerbread house kits ahead of time and put them together
  • Watch “Frosty the Snowman” or your favorite holiday show
  • Cheer on your favorite college football team in one of the many bowl games
  • Bake holiday gifts or create holiday crafts together
  • Play a board game. You can play Yahtzee, Boggle, Pictionary, and other games over video. And there are online versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue, and Life you can try.

2. Make any in-person gatherings as safe as possible

Dr. Payne doesn’t recommend seeing family or friends in-person this year. “It is best not to have in-person gatherings at all, especially those including family from different households,” she said.

If you do get together, follow these tips to help reduce risk:

  • Gather outdoors if you can
  • Limit guests to your immediate household or community
  • Keep the guest list to 10 people or fewer
  • Wear your mask and keep at least six feet away from others, even family and friends
  • Ask everyone to quarantine for 14 days before your gathering
  • Ask everyone to get a COVID-19 test shortly before your gathering

3. Remember all the rules you’ve learned during COVID-19

You’re probably feeling pandemic fatigue after scaling back your activities since March. But as we head into the winter it’s more important than ever to be vigilant:

  • Stay six feet away from others, indoors or out
  • Wear your mask anytime you’re around others, even outdoors
  • Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well and seek medical attention if you have symptoms of COVID-19

4. Wear your mask the way you should

“Wearing your mask correctly will help keep you safe,” Dr. Payne said. Your mask should cover your nose and mouth completely and fit snugly to your face. When you take it off to eat or drink, remove it completely and lay it face down on a paper towel or place it in a paper bag. Label the front and back of the bag so you know which way to put your mask on.

5. Recognize that this year, the holidays will be different

“Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common during the holidays,” Dr. Payne said. Those feelings might be amplified this year because of the pandemic. If you’re feeling down, try practicing self-care.

You may also feel frustrated and disappointed that you can’t celebrate with your loved ones in traditional ways. “Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself grace with what you might be feeling during this time,” Dr. Payne said.

Are you trying to decide if travel is the right thing to do this year? Read this article and consider the risks it poses for you and the people at your destination.  For more information regarding COVID-19, visit

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