The holiday season is typically a time for celebration. In a normal year, we gather with those we love to spend quality time … but 2020 has not been normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted much of 2020.
As the year draws to a close, distribution of the novel coronavirus vaccine is beginning, but the virus is showing no signs of slowing down. Cases of confirmed COVID-19 are continuing to climb, with local health officials pointing to the Thanksgiving holiday as a source.
Our actions and precautions are crucial in the coming weeks. We recommend that you forgo the traditional holiday gatherings this year, only celebrating in person with people in your own household — and connecting virtually with loved ones outside your home.
If you choose to celebrate in person with people outside your household, you should consider the option with the lowest level of risk. We previously put together a guide for celebrating safely this holiday season. You can read that guidance here.
Likewise, traveling during the holiday season is not recommended. Travel can increase your chance or spreading of contracting COVID-19, so staying home is the best way to protect yourself.
If you are traveling this holiday season, there are several factors you should consider. For additional guidance, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Know Before You Go
There are a number of questions the CDC recommends you ask yourself and your traveling party before you set your plans in stone.
Are you, your traveling party or those you are going to visit at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?
If the answer is yes, you might want to reconsider. People who are ‘high-risk’ for COVID-19 are likely to have more severe symptoms and require hospitalization.
Are cases high and increasing in the area you will be visiting — and are hospitals treating a high number of COVID-19 patients?
The higher the numbers are in a given community, the more likely you are to become infected with the virus. You can check each state's cases over the last seven days here. Local health department websites will have the most up-to-date information about hospital capacity.
Does your travel destination have requirements or restrictions for visitors?
Familiarize yourself with any changes to policies that might impact your ability to visit a certain area.
Do your plans include a method of travel that might make social distancing difficult?
Travel by airplane, train or bus is likely to make staying six feet apart a challenge, and that could increase your likelihood of contracting the virus.
During the two weeks leading up to your travel, did you, anyone in your traveling party or those you are visiting have close contact with people who don’t live with them?
Certain activities — like holiday parties, attending sporting events, visiting bars, fitness centers or movie theaters, or using transportation methods where social distancing is difficult — put you at a higher risk for COVID-19.
If You Decide to Travel, Take These Precautions
After you’ve asked yourself all of the questions above and made sure there are no travel restrictions in the area you will be visiting, there are a number of other things you can do to protect yourself and others. The CDC recommends you:
- Get your flu shot before you travel
- Stock up on extra supplies, like masks and sanitizer, to bring on the trip and keep them within arm’s reach
- If you have prescriptions you take daily or at a regular cadence, make sure you have enough to last the entire trip
- Wear a mask properly — with your mouth and nose covered — when in public settings
- Abide by social distancing guidelines, staying at least six-feet apart from anyone who is not in your traveling party
- Wash your hands frequently and/or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid contact with those who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Know when to call off the trip, for example if someone starts to develop symptoms in the day or days leading up to travel
You should also consider getting a COVID-19 test before you travel. In some areas, it will be mandatory to visit, but it’s a good precaution to take regardless. While you and those in your traveling party might feel fine, you could be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) and still have COVID-19.
The CDC recommends getting a COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip. Keep your results with you, because in some cases you might be asked to verify your negative test.
If you do have the virus, you should cancel your travel plans, stay home and isolate yourself from others.
During your stay, you’ll likely continue running essential errands. This includes things like going to the gas station, picking up items last minute from the grocery store, or a handful of other tasks. We’ve put together tips to help you stay safe while running those errands.
Once You Get Home
You should also consider getting a COVID-19 test in the days after you return home. The recommended time frame is within one to three days.
You, your traveling party and those you visited may have taken precautions during your stay, but it’s still possible someone in attendance was infected with the virus and it could have spread to you.
Health officials also recommend reducing your non-essential activities for seven days, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get a test, up that time frame to 10 days.
In Conclusion, Stay Safe
Stay as safe as you can this holiday season. It can be a stressful time of year, and the idea of not seeing your loved ones in the traditional sense can make that stress compound.
If you need help, our EAP services (if offered by your employer) and Living Well Network can help. They’ve put together tips for helping you cope with stress or deal with the “new normal” during the holidays.
If you decide to stay at home, get creative with new ways to celebrate and spread holiday cheer. Remember, we’re here for you this holiday season and all year long.
Coronavirus Resource Center
For updates from MLH facilities, community resources, COVID-19 FAQs and much more, visit our Coronavirus Resource Center