We are just a few days away from Halloween and one month till Thanksgiving. But it’s never too early to think about safety measures for this year’s holiday events and gatherings. Dr. Sunil Budhrani, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Innovation Health —a joint venture partnership between Aetna and Inova—and local ER physician, shares some advice.
What constitutes a low risk vs. high risk Halloween and Thanksgiving activity?
“Low-risk Halloween activities take place at home. Buy your kids a big bag of candy, dress up as a family and watch a spooky movie, trick-or-treat in the rooms of your house, or hold a virtual costume or pumpkin carving contest.
Regular trick-or-treating immediately raises your risk of exposure to COVID-19 since you’re breathing the same air as strangers on sidewalks and porches. Wear masks (costume masks are not substitutes), frequently sanitize your hands and physically distance yourself from others by avoiding houses where you have to come into contact with strangers handing out candy.
Thanksgiving is more of a challenge since it’s almost entirely about family time celebrated indoors with older relatives. The lowest risk option is to keep the holiday to just your bubble; or consider a virtual meal, positioning your screen so you still feel like you are all together, and drop off plates on nearby loved ones’ doorsteps.
The high-risk option requires some planning and cooperation from everyone involved which isn’t always a guarantee. In the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, you, your family, and your guests should quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. While your guests are in town, everyone should minimize contact with strangers, wear masks in public and frequently wash their hands. Flu shots are also important, especially if you have older or high-risk family members.”
What if you are traveling for Thanksgiving?
“For flying, do your best to minimize contact by booking flights very early in the morning or very late at night to avoid holiday crowds. Wear a mask in the airport and on flights, physically distance from strangers and frequently wash your hands.
If you’re driving, wear a mask at rest stops, restaurants and gas stations, and immediately wash or sanitize your hands afterwards. See if you can do the entire drive in one day if possible to avoid staying in a hotel or with people outside your bubble.”
What about considerations for preparing and serving food this year?
“Unless they have been tested or are inside your bubble, whoever is preparing the meal should wear a mask. Rather than doing buffet-style or communal self-service in the middle of the dinner table, all food should be pre-plated in the kitchen so fewer people touch the same utensils. The same is true for snacks—eat out of individual containers rather than taking handfuls straight from the bag or bowl.”
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