How to Safely Celebrate the Holiday Season, According to New CDC Guidelines

·3 min read
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COVID-CDC-Holiday-Guidance-GettyImages-1177096652

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The calendar may have just flipped to October, but there's no mistaking that the holiday season is vast approaching. And while COVID-19 cases are currently on the decline in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently rolled out suggested guidelines to safely celebrate in the months ahead in the hopes of avoiding another potential surge. (Read more: How to Navigate the Holidays In the Era of COVID)

For those planning to gather with anyone outside of their likely now-expanded COVID bubble or pod for an indoor, holiday get-together, the CDC recommends keeping the air well-circulated. "Bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible," states the CDC guidelines for the holidays, which were published Saturday on the organization's website. "You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows." The idea of utilizing a continuous flow of fresh air isn't entirely new, but experts agree it may help. One possible way "to clear virions from the air in a room is to simply open two windows to allow the virions to escape and replace with fresh, uninfected air," Rand McClain, M.D., the chief medical officer of LCR Health previously told Shape.

If it's been a while since you first learned about COVID-19 transmission, as a reminder, the virus can spread in three main ways, according to the CDC. For starters, the virus can spread through the air via small particles expelled from the infected person through exhaling, coughing, and sneezing which can enter your eyes, nose, and mouth. Additionally, the virus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces.

So to best prevent infection, the CDC notes that among the safest ways to celebrate is through virtual celebrations or outdoors, where you can be at least six feet apart from others. The agency also advises that families have conversations about holiday gatherings ahead of time to "understand the expectations for celebrating together," such as whether vaccinations or masked will be required as well as where the event is taking place and how many people will be attending.

And it should go without saying, but JIC: The CDC advises against hosting or attending a gathering if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you display symptoms, which can include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, among others. (Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Transmission)

While getting vaccinated against COVID-19, when eligible, is recommended by the CDC, for the folks who aren't fully vaccinated, it's advised they wear masks in indoor public spaces. Further, the CDC's holiday travel guidelines suggest you hold off on heading anywhere until you've been fully vaccinated. The agency also considers people to be fully vaccinated two weeks after they've received their second dose of the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or 14 days after receiving the single-dose Johnson and Johnson inoculation. (Related: How Effective Is the COVID-19 Vaccine?)

This holiday season will mark the first that many are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. And while booster shots will also be available to some special populations (e.g. the elderly, immunocompromised folks), the COVID-19 vaccines, in general, remain the best form of protection. If you have yet to be vaccinated, please consider doing so if your end-of-the-year social calendar includes intimate gatherings with loved ones near and far. It doesn't just help you, but it protects them, too.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.