WASHINGTON -- Celebrating the holidays while you’re in the military can already be a tough experience when you’re away from family and friends. For many, celebrating this year during COVID-19 may be even tougher.
The pandemic has brought on more stress and isolation than usual, and that isn’t likely to change from Thanksgiving into the New Year. Health officials are urging people to modify their gatherings during the holidays – even for small groups of people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered some ideas to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while you’re with people who aren’t in your immediate household. The following tips supplement existing guidance from military installation orders and combatant command disease prevention guidelines. Keep in mind, these considerations are meant to supplement -- NOT replace – the state, local, territorial and tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations which all gatherings must comply with.
How To Limit the Spread
There are the standard rules and recommendations:
- Wear a mask with two or more layers. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of your face. If you’re with members of different households, be sure to wear it at all times, except when eating or drinking.
- Remember to stay 6 feet apart from people who aren’t normally in your immediate household.
- Keep up the handwashing and use of hand sanitizers whenever possible.
- Forgo the hugs, fist bumps and handshakes this year. A simple wave will do!
Then there are more in-depth ways to keep yourself safe:
- Avoid going in and out of areas where food is being prepared or handled. If you’re involved in the prep, wear a mask while doing so.
- Use single-use options such as salad dressing and condiment packets, as well as disposable items such as food containers, plates, cups and utensils.
If You’re Hosting
Limit the number of guests.
Make sure you explain your COVID-19 plan ahead of time to those who are coming so they know what to expect. Also, consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contact tracing needs.
Set up tables and chairs with social distancing in mind. If possible, do so outside. If you’re celebrating inside, open some windows.
If you’re setting up a tent outside, remember that enclosed four-wall tents have less air circulation than open-air tents. If outdoor temperatures or weather forces you to put up the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open, or roll up the bottom 12 inches of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a windbreak.
Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items, and clean and disinfect those surfaces and items between each use when possible.
If you still can’t physically be with the ones you love, host a meal virtually. Share recipes ahead of time and have everyone show off what they made, or play games together.
You can also make one of your favorite dishes and deliver it without contact to your family, friends or neighbors who can’t be with you in person. We’re sure they’ll appreciate it!
There’s Help If You Need It
While this year’s celebrations aren’t going to be like those in the past, remember that many people are struggling through this. If you need support during this trying time, visit Military OneSource for guidance, counseling and other resources.
And don’t forget to have a safe and happy holiday season!