The holidays are an important time for adults and children alike. As we approach the 2020 season, connecting with extended family and friends will require flexibility, and being open to modifying cherished traditions.
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital encourages parents and guardians to read our recommended COVID-19 guidelines when planning for, or attending, any upcoming gathering and determining whether or not you and your family will be traveling during the holidays.
As the holiday season approaches, many families look ahead eagerly to safely reconnecting with loved ones. They also feel renewed anxiety as they try to reimagine and plan for this year’s gatherings. Consider the following when determining how you approach holiday gatherings this year:
- Host virtual gatherings: Virtual gatherings are a great way to connect safely with extended family and friends during the holiday season.
- Host small gatherings: Small gatherings can involve family members who live in your same household. Be cautious when inviting any guests since a significant number of infected individuals will have no symptoms and still may pose a risk of infection for close contacts. Provide disposable plates, utensils and cups to avoid sharing items, and have hand sanitizer readily available.
- Host outdoor gatherings: Thanks to our South Florida climate, outdoor holiday celebrations can be an option for some, providing a safer venue than indoor settings. CDC recommendations for social distancing still need to be followed.
- Assess COVID-19 cases in the community: Prior to hosting or attending a holiday gathering, take the time to research the number of COVID-19 cases in the community where the event will be held. Researching in advance can help you decide whether to attend a small gathering, or stay home. At this time many communities have positivity rates greater that 5%, indicating high risk for transmission.
- Stay home if you are sick, immunocompromised or have an underlying condition: Just as you would keep your child home from school if he or she is sick, make sure not to attend any gatherings if you or your child aren’t feeling well. If someone in your family is immunocompromised or has an underlying condition, consider staying home to lower his or her risk of contracting COVID-19.
Holiday travel can put you and your loved ones at greater risk for COVID-19 and staying home is the best way to minimize your exposure. If you do plan to travel this holiday season, the following safety precautions can help protect you and your family:
College-Age Students Returning Home for the Holidays
- Air travel: If traveling by plane, avoid flights that are heavily booked and keep your household members in the same area of the plane. Some major airlines are maintaining middle seats empty. Maintain masks and social distancing during the flight and at all times.
- Car travel: Traveling by car can help minimize exposure to others. You can further reduce exposure, by minimizing stops.
- Lodgings: Consider avoiding hotels and opting for a vacation home rental, where it will be easier to socially distance. If staying in a hotel or vacation rental, please review the property’s COVID-19 safety protocols prior to booking. Consider eating in your room rather than in the restaurant.
- Travel times: Traveling at off-peak hours can help reduce your exposure to crowds while traveling by air or car.
Travel increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19. College students should be particularly careful 14 days before returning home, especially if parents or grandparents have risk factor for serious side effects from infection. Students that are sick should self-isolate and not travel. Healthy students that travel need to maintain recommended precautions of wearing a proper mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing.
If the student has any questions about possible exposure, testing for COVID-19 must be done before travel is initiated. Once students return home, the CDC recommends that they be treated as overnight guests for the first 14 days, which means wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and frequent hand washing. After 14 days they are considered again part of the family nucleus and these restrictions are relaxed. Timely testing is strongly encouraged.
The Importance of the 2020 Flu Vaccine
Gatherings of any kind can contribute to the spread of other infectious diseases. The flu vaccine helps protect you and your family from the spread of influenza in our community. To learn more about the 2020 flu vaccine, please visit our Flu Vaccine page
It is important to remember that following COVID-19 guidelines is a combined effort. Together, we can help enhance the health and safety of those in our community.
For more information about COVID-19 and the holiday season, please visit the CDC’s website on Holiday Celebrations.
This content was reviewed by Otto Ramos, MD, Director, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
- Wear appropriate face coverings or masks when out in public spaces. Children under 2 years of age would have a difficult time wearing a mask.
- Wash your hands frequently with hand soap and water, or use hand sanitizer every time you touch surfaces that may be contaminated such as door knobs.
- Avoid large crowds and adhere to physical distancing guidelines.