Celebrating the holidays safely

From schools shutting down to the closing of indoor dining, COVID-19 has affected everyone. Consequently, it is no surprise that normal holiday celebrations will look different this year. However, that does not mean that the holidays are cancelled. There are plenty of ways to celebrate them this year, while being safe and helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Governor Ralph Northam Executive Order: 

Starting December 14, 2020, Executive Order Seventy-Two will take effect in Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam gave the order due to the rising COVID-19 cases. The order states that to limit the spread of COVID-19 everyone should remain in their homes between 12:00 a.m-5:00 a.m, the exceptions being people that are traveling to and from work, obtaining food and goods, and seeking medical attention. Anyone over the age of five is required to wear face coverings when in shared indoor settings and when outdoors within six feet of each other. Social gatherings cannot be any more than ten people, and there will be continued limits on dining establishments. Unless the order is rescinded or amended, the order will remain in place until January 31, 2020, 

Tips for small family and friend gatherings: 

During the holidays, families and friends often like to get together and celebrate the holidays. However, due to COVID-19, you might not be able to celebrate them like how you normally do. If you were to meet up with other people outside of your household, there are some things that you should keep in mind. 

COVID-19 is more likely to spread when you are indoors, especially in homes with poor ventilation. Outdoor gatherings are always better, and pose less of a risk. With winter coming and temperatures dropping, though, it might be harder to have outdoor gatherings. Virtual gatherings and celebrations with members of your household pose the lowest risk. 

Wearing masks is very important to help limit the spread. Having at least two layers of breathable, washable fabric is the best. The mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly on your face. Wearing a mask is highly recommended if you were to meet up with anyone outside of your household. 

The fewer the people the better for the gathering. It should be considered that everyone should try and stay six feet away from each other, when meeting up with others. It is also recommended for attendees to be consistently socially distant, wearing masks and having washed their hands before meeting up with anyone. 

Traveling is also something to consider if you plan on meeting up with anyone. As traveling on airplanes, buses, trains and more can expose you to the virus before you even meet up with anyone. If you want to meet others for the holidays, do your best to follow Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

If you are going to host or attend an event, it’s recommended to check local COVID-19 cases to see if there are a lot of or a spike in cases in the area. If there are an increase in the number of cases, you should not go as it would only put you in a higher risk environment. Even though these are tough times, it will take everyone to help slow the spread.

Sharing Food and Drinks: 

It is a common thing during the holidays to have holiday dinners. Even with COVID-19, there are ways that you can share food with others while helping limit the spread of the virus. 

It is possible that someone can get the virus by touching a food wrapper, utensil, or another surface, and then by touching their nose, eyes or mouth. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but it is still important to practice food and drink guidelines. At the moment, there is no evidence that suggests that the virus spreads from food handling or eating, but the CDC still encourages guests to bring their own food and to avoid potluck style food sharing. 

Making sure that everyone is washing their hands is very important, especially before and after eating. Any hand sanitizer used in the place of hand washing should have at least 60 percent alcohol. Along with that, limiting the number of people where the food is being prepared and handled is also crucial to help limit exposure. All of these things can help ensure that risk for the virus remains low.


Traveling with COVID-19 can put you at greater risk of infection. Your chance of getting the virus depends on how you travel and the length of the trip. If you are traveling by car, making stops for gas and food can expose you to the virus. When you travel by bus or by train, you may have to sit or stand next to someone within six feet for an extended period of time, which can increase your risk. When you travel by airplanes, you will have to stand in security lines and sit in airport terminals. When inside the airplane, germs don’t spread easily because of the filters on the plane and how the air circulates, however, it can be hard to keep far apart on crowded airplanes, and sitting next to people for hours can put you at risk. Traveling on cruise ships and flights with layovers will also increase your exposure. 

If you do travel, make sure that you are wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, and mouth, and stay at least six feet away from people. If you have to get gas, you can use disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer before and after pumping your gas. The safest option is to bring your own food, but if you are not able to, then you should try to use drive through, delivery, or take out. Don’t forget to check local COVID-19 cases before you travel to that location, to make sure that infection is not high. 


Even though everyone’s life has changed in some way because of COVID-19, some things can remain the same, like celebrating the holidays with your loved ones. Just because you have to take special precautions beforehand does not mean that you can’t have fun. If you meet up with others outside your household, do your best to have an outdoor gathering, and to be consistently hand washing and mask wearing. It is best if you bring your own food, but if you take proper precautions you can limit your risk when sharing. Even though traveling can put you at higher risk for the virus, if you wear a mask, stay six feet apart and take other precautions it will help limit the risk. Even if the holidays are not like how they have been in the past, it does not mean that you can’t cherish and celebrate them. 

For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html