Ways to enjoy the holiday season safely

It’s important to celebrate and be with people you care about during the holiday season. And because all adults and many children are now eligible for vaccination, safety guidance has loosened up a little since last year.

Still, COVID-19 lingers in our communities, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered some things you can do to ease your mind and enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season this year.

  • Make sure you and the people you live with ages 5 years and older are fully vaccinated. And, for added protection, get your booster or third dose if eligible.
  • Even if you are fully vaccinated, be sure to wear a wear well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, stay away from people so you don’t spread illness.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you’re traveling:

Traveling by car and only with people you live with will minimize the risk of COVID-19. If you plan to travel by air, bus, or train, consider these steps:

  • Limit your exposure to non-household members for 14 days before visiting older adults or family members who are at higher risk of infection.
  • Get your flu shot at least two weeks before travel.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated, get a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth (except children younger than two years old) in crowded areas including airports, airplanes, buses or trains.
  • After travel, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms. If you are not fully vaccinated:
    • Self-quarantine for 7 days, and get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after returning from travel.  
    • If you don’t get tested, self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. You can find more tips from the CDC about domestic travel and international travel during COVID-19.

If you’re attending or hosting indoor activities:

Make sure the activity or event is taking appropriate COVID-19 safety measures:

  • If you’re attending an event, it’s OK to ask if everyone is vaccinated. You can choose to stay home or find other ways to connect if you feel the risk is too high.
  • Wearing masks indoors increases protection.
  • Ensure there is room to keep physical distance. Smaller gatherings and bigger event spaces with good ventilation reduce the risk of transmission.

If you are hosting a party in your home, it’s good to take more precautions:

  • It’s safer to limit your gathering to vaccinated people.
  • Keep gatherings small.
  • Ask guests to stay home if they are sick.
  • You can also ask guests to get a COVID-19 test before the gathering.
  • Wear masks and keep six feet of distance if you have unvaccinated guests or guests who have health conditions that put them at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.
  • Open windows to increase air circulation and consider using a HEPA air purifier if you cannot open windows and doors.
  • Wash your hands often.

If you are gathering with people from multiple households or different parts of the country, the CDC recommends considering additional precautions:

  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces.
  • Get a COVID-19 test in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.
  • For added protection for yourself and others, you can wear a mask when not eating or drinking.

If you’re shopping:

Last-minute shopping is common during the holiday season, but planning ahead can take the pressure off and help you stay safe:

  • Think about what you need before leaving home. Making a list can help you find what you need quickly rather than browsing for a long time indoors.  
  • Think of two or three places where you can get what you need. That way if one store looks too busy, you know where to try next.  
  • Ordering online for home delivery or curbside pickup at a local store can save time and lower your risk of getting COVID-19.
  • Keep a spare mask with you in case you forget to grab one before going out.  
  • Check out our shopping guidance for more ideas.

If you are celebrating with people at greater risk from COVID-19:

If anyone you gather with has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated, the CDC suggests wearing masks regardless of the level of COVID-19 transmission in your area.

People with weakened immune systems should also continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitting mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

We hope these reminders help you prepare for a safe and joyous holiday season. If you still don’t feel comfortable gathering or traveling, it’s also OK if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. Do what’s best for you.