We all know that Christmas 2020 is going to be different, and with the holidays just a few weeks away, you may be wondering how you can host a Christmas party while minimizing coronavirus risk. Here we cover the latest health guidance to help you do just that, breaking it down step-by-step so that you're prepared.
Assuming you are the one hosting your Christmas 2020 gathering, the first step is to ensure you’re up to date on the latest CDC coronavirus guidance, as well as the updated list of coronavirus symptoms (opens in new tab). These include a new cough, loss of taste or smell, and a fever, which you can track using one of the best digital thermometers (opens in new tab). Even though you'll want everyone to be together this Christmas, any guests displaying symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 should not attend your gathering.
And if you start displaying symptoms that might indicate infection, the CDC advises (opens in new tab) staying at home and away from others, even if that means cancelling your party while waiting for your test results to come back. We know it's upsetting but, considering how many people have lost their lives to COVID-19, the greatest gift we can give each other this Christmas is help slow the spread and protect the vulnerable.
Before we look at how to host a more COVID secure Christmas party, let's get clear on what we mean: No gathering is 100% COVID secure, but you can take steps to ensure it's as secure as possible. With that in mind, here is a list of people who should avoid attending a Christmas 2020 gathering, according to the Mayo Clinic (opens in new tab):
- Any person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who hasn't met the criteria for when it's safe to be around others
- Any person who has symptoms of COVID-19
- Any person who is waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test
- Any person who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Any person who is at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19
How to host a more COVID-secure Christmas party
Step 1: Follow the guidelines for your area
There are many variations on social gathering rules in each state, so follow the specific guidelines for the area you live in. The Mayo Clinic (opens in new tab) recommends keeping up to date with the situation regarding 1) COVID cases in your community, 2) the community your guests are coming from, and, if you aren't hosting a gathering at home, 3) the area in which you are hosting the party.
Use a government authorized site such as The COVID Tracking Project to ensure you’re getting the most accurate and current statistics available. This way you can better assess the risk of potential infection to you and your guests. Remember, the higher the level of infection is in a community, the greater the risk to you and your fellow guests.
Step 2: Consider a shorter and smaller gathering
As we have seen from clinical data, longer and larger gatherings hold the highest risk of transmission, so for Christmas 2020 consider throwing a shorter gathering with a smaller guest list. The CDC has produced clear guidelines (opens in new tab) on what to keep in mind when gathering in groups this Christmas, but again, the specific guidelines for where you live (opens in new tab) might be different.
While the Mayo Clinic urges people to consider keeping indoor Christmas parties to a maximum of 10 people, and outdoor Christmas gatherings to 25 people or less to ensure proper social distancing, the CDC is yet to publish a recommendation on the size of groups.
That's because the health organization has said that, 'The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, to wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial (opens in new tab), or tribal (opens in new tab) health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.'
So if you're unable to ensure that each of your guests are able to properly social distance, organize a smaller gathering instead so that you all have adequate space. The other alternative is a virtual gathering or Zoom Christmas party.
Step 3: Take your party outdoors
Baby, it’s cold outside, but it’s also a safer place to host a Christmas 2020 gathering. If the weather permits, why not consider hosting a festive party in your backyard or even at a local park or green space?
For festive garden parties, a good patio heater (opens in new tab) can help keep everyone warm, while stringing up festive lights and other outdoor Christmas decorations goes some way to creating a winter wonderland ambience. If you want to cook for your guests, you could even fire up the grill and have a Christmas BBQ.
Even when outdoors, the CDC says (opens in new tab) that you still need to practice social distancing and follow recommended COVID guidelines when mixing with people who do not live in your household.
Step 4: Sanitize hot spots in your home before and after
Sanitizing your hands and your home remains an effective way to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. When it comes to potential COVID hot spots at home, the bedroom is high on the list, as beds are COVID-19 hotspots (opens in new tab) due to the amount of time we spend recovering in them when sick.
But even if everyone in your home is currently well, it's a good idea to sanitize frequently touched surfaces, especially if guests are entering your home this Christmas. Pay close attention to disinfecting door handles (exterior and interior), light switches, all areas of the toilet, kitchen worktops, taps, and any tableware and cutlery.
The CDC now has a list of COVID-recommended disinfectants (opens in new tab), including Clorox and Lysol, that will kill surface germs. Our guide on how to deep-clean your home (opens in new tab) also has plenty of tips to disinfect your house before the party and again once your guests have left.
Step 5: Ask guests to follow COVID safety guidance
Explain to your guests in advance what measures you have taken to make the party as COVID-safe as possible, and let them know what they can do to help reduce the risk of potential spread and infection.
If different households are mixing, it’s recommended that the host and guests avoid mixing with others outside of their household for 14 days before the party, though that may not be possible for everyone due to work, family and care responsibilities.
Traveling by public transport, including plane, train or bus, increases the risk of possible infection, so you may want to consider limiting your guest list to people who can walk or drive themselves to your home or chosen venue this year.
During the celebration itself, as mentioned, the CDC advises guests from different households to maintain a two-meter distance from each other and to wear a facial covering. That could be a reusable fabric face mask (opens in new tab), a medical mask, or a homemade face mask (opens in new tab).
Step 6: Create face mask and sanitizer stations
Make hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol based) freely available during your gathering, and choose ones with festive designs to make things feel a bit more cheerful. You could place masks in a basket near your front door, just in case any guests forget to bring their own.
Also set up plenty of hand hygiene stations so that your guests have easy access, and let them know upon arrival where these hand sanitizers are - it's best to place them in plain view, in spaces where people are most likely to eat and drink. If possible, choose a hand sanitizer with a pump dispenser so that guests don't have to hold the bottle to squeeze out liquid.
There are plenty of festive masks around now too, which are particularly good for any small children who may feel intimidated by the look of medical masks.
Step 7: Create a one-way food and drinks area
In addition to asking your guests about their dietary requirements, there are a few extra steps you'll need to take this year. The Mayo Clinic is recommending (opens in new tab) an approach that will surely divide opinion: to forgo the usual festive buffet and instead ask guests to bring their own food and drink to consume themselves to help reduce the risk.
If you don't like the sound of that, try to avoid having self-serve stations where guests keep going back and forth to help themselves, as this involves a lot more contact. Instead, have just one person dishing out food and drink, or opt for single-serve portions in disposable containers. Disposable cups, plates and cutlery helps reduce your risk, and there are plenty of recyclable options now.
You could also implement a one-way system around the food and drink area, or send just a couple of guests at a time so that social distancing can be maintained.
Step 8: Create a list of non-contact Christmas games to play
Christmas 2020 is the time to embrace some true classics that can be played while maintaining social distancing. Charades, Pictionary and quizzes are all great indoor games, and spreading the kids out for a round of freeze dance can help them burn off some of that Christmas candy.
If it’s dry enough to be outdoors, why not have a competition for who can decorate a Christmas bauble the fastest? Or perhaps try a socially-distanced scavenger hunt, tasking guests to look for specific festive items, to take photos of them and send them to you for a prize?
With a few tweaks, many of your old festive favorites can be turned into non-contact games that are fun and safe to play.
Step 9: Get the contact details of everyone who attends
Hopefully, your Christmas party will go off without a hitch and everyone will leave happy and healthy. But just in case anyone does start displaying symptoms suggestive of the coronavirus after your gathering has ended, as the host it's your responsibility to ensure all households who were at the party are notified so that they can take appropriate action.
If you will be in close contact with people from different households, consider taking extra precautions for 14 days (opens in new tab) after the party. Stay at home as much as possible, and above all avoid mixing with people who are particularly vulnerable.
Christmas 2020 won't be the same as any other year, but by taking steps to protect one another, we can still celebrate each other and stay safe.
For more coronavirus and health content, take a look at our Coronavirus myths busted by a doctor (opens in new tab), or read our guides to the Best health insurance companies (opens in new tab) and the Best Medicare Part D plans (opens in new tab) to see how coverage could benefit you now.