State health official offer guidance for decreasing COVID risks during the holidays

If you are planning to get together with extended family over Thanksgiving, the state Department of Health and Human Services has issued new guidance on how to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.

The best way to reduce your risk is pretty simple – limit travel and limit physical contact with people who do not live in your household.  This advice is especially true for individuals over the age of 65 or those who have underlying health conditions, who are more susceptible to getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.

Also be vigilant about the precautions you are asked to take daily: Wear a face covering, keep 6 feet of social distancing, and wash your hands frequently.

If you are planning to have a crowd over to your house just like every year, here’s what the experts advise:

Before the event:
•You should consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
•Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
•Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, bathroom surfaces) before guests come over and between uses.
•Keep the guest list small. When deciding how many people to invite to your gathering, consider the amount of space you have and the ability to maintain social distancing during the event.
•Higher risk guests should consider attending events virtually, so they can remain safely at home.
•If higher risk individuals do attend gatherings in person, ensure the 3Ws are practiced by all guests and limit the number of other guests in attendance as much as possible.
•The day before the event, all guests should screen for symptoms and stay home if they are not feeling well.

During the Thanksgiving event:
•Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather.
•Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing between guest. People from the same household can be in groups together and do not need to be 6 feet apart – just 6 feet away from other groups or families.
•Practice the 3 Ws (Wear, Wait, Wash) during the event: Wear a face covering when not eating or drinking, Wait six feet apart from others, and Wash your hands regularly.
•When guests need to remove a face covering to eat or drink, it is recommended they maintain 6 feet distance from people outside their household and put their face coverings back on after they are done eating or drinking.
•Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible. Have one household approach the food serving area at a time to prevent congregating.
•Consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
•Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, and condiments, so that multiple people are not handling the item

So if you are just starting your planning, how can you fine-tune the celebration and go for something less traditional, but safer?

The good folks at NCDHHS offer this breakdown of options from lower-risk, to moderate-risk to higher-risk:

Read full guidance here.

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