‘Don’t be fearful, but be careful’: Doctors advise cautious holiday planning to reduce COVID-19 spread

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — While state health officials are advising that people restrict their travel plans this holiday season, they are also asking for traditional family gatherings not to be held.

But as a practical matter, they know that many people will not follow that advice. 

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases is blamed partly on private gatherings during Halloween, meaning Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays could potentially be much worse. 

“You may feel fine, but you may be spreading COVID-19,” said Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “So, that’s why we are urging people not to gather.” 

But it’s hard to break tradition and stay away from the once-a-year family gathering. 

“Don’t be fearful, but be careful,” said Kathleen Winston, the College of Nursing dean at University of Phoenix.

Winston said people have to plan their gatherings with more care during the coronavirus spike: How many people to invite? Is the home big enough for social distancing? Should there be small tables where people sit close together? Who is invited?

“Have they been out and about? Have they been pretty restricted and staying at home?” Winston told FOX40. “So, really knowing the people you’re inviting and what those behaviors look like.”

It may mean holding two smaller gatherings; state officials suggest guests from no more than three households. 

And if the gathering can’t be held outdoors, open windows or use a fan or other ventilation to dissipate virus-carrying droplets. 

Hosts should consider the holiday meals, the large buffet layout, seating arrangements and passing food at the table. 

“One person serve the food and one person bring that plate to the individual, and that certainly reduces the risk by not having the buffet or not having the family passing food to one another at the table,” Winston explained. 

Having guests wash hands and masking is a given. Shortening a gathering to three to four hours can also be a good thing. 

In any case, the longer it goes on the more likely guests are to de-mask to snack or drink. 

Each host will have lots of decisions to make if they want a safe gathering, but planning is more important than ever. 

“What’s best in their circumstances regarding the people and the place and the purpose that they are trying to achieve,” Winston said. 

State health officials are advising people to think twice about inviting at-risk people like the elderly or immune-compromised people at family gatherings. They can always join the festivities remotely with online or phone video conferencing. 

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