Topic: How to Minimize COVID Risk and Enjoy the Holidays
Anthony Fauci is not celebrating Thanksgiving with his three adult daughters this year. The now famous director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in an American University Webinar that as much as he would love to spend the holiday with his kids, they had told him, “We want you and Mommy to have a nice, quiet dinner.” Fauci may be “a ‘young,’ vigorous guy,” they said, but he is also 79 years old—and that puts him in a vulnerable category for COVID-19. So his children, who are spread across the country, have decided to send their love via Zoom.
With COVID-19 cases hitting an all-time high, a decision not to gather in person may be the most loving one a family can make this holiday season. This is especially the case if its members include individuals in higher-risk categories, such as older adults and people with diabetes or cancer, to name just a few. But not every type of holiday celebration carries the same risk, and the dangers of people getting together need to be weighed against the benefits of social interaction, says infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School. “For some people, there are going to be risks very [much] worth taking,” she says.
There is no such thing as a totally COVID-safe family gathering. But here are some ways to reduce the dangers.
One would ideally want to minimize the total numbers of both attendees and households involved, Marcus says. People who live together are essentially combining their exposure, so think of things in terms of how many contacts you are bringing together. In general, a celebration with 10 residents from a single household will be lower risk than a gathering involving five couples from five different households, Marcus says—unless, of course, someone in the 10-person home is a frontline worker, and those five couples have strictly quarantined for two weeks prior to the gathering and have avoided social contacts on their way to the event. Individual circumstances matter, and that is why it is difficult to put hard-and-fast numbers on how many people are too many, Marcus says. When making the guest list, consider the risk each specific attendee poses, as well as how much risk each person is comfortable taking on.
Some cities, counties and states have limits on gathering sizes. These restrictions are subject to change, so check the latest health directives before finalizing plans, says Matt Willis, public health officer of California’s Marin County.
Topic Discussed: How to Minimize COVID Risk and Enjoy the Holidays