The CDC is recommending you shouldn't go home for Christmas this year.

COVID cases continue to rise across the United States. The CDC says the safest way to celebrate holidays is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. "Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu."

The CDC is offering considerations to slow the spread of COVID-19 during small gatherings. These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which all gatherings must comply.

Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread. People who do not currently live in your house, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.

Several factors can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings.

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering.
  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing, mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
  • Hosting or Attending a Gathering

    If you will be hosting a gathering during the holiday season that brings people who live in different households together, follow CDC tips for hosting gatherings.

  • Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live. Based on the current status of the pandemic, consider if it is safe to hold or attend the gathering on the proposed date.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Require guests to wear masks. At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Provide and/or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help everyone to stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items, such as serving utensils.
  • Use touchless garbage cans if available. Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.
  • Food and drinks at small holiday gatherings

    Currently, there is no evidence to suggest handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19. It is possible a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread.

  • Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only; avoid potluck-style gatherings.
  • Wear a mask while preparing food for or serving food to others who don’t live in your household.
    All attendees should have a plan for where to store their mask while eating and drinking. Keep it in a dry, breathable bag (like a paper or mesh fabric bag) to keep it clean between uses.
  • 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 person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so 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, plates and utensils, and condiments.
  • Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food and after taking trash out. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Designate a space for guests to wash hands after handling or eating food.
  • Limit crowding in areas where food is served by having one person dispense food individually to plates, always keeping a minimum of a 6-foot distance from the person whom they are serving. Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations.
  • Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event.
  • Offer no-touch trash cans for guests to easily throw away food items.
  • Wash dishes in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately following the gathering.
  • The CDC recommends avoiding high risk activities during the holidays including:

    Shopping in crowded stores
    Participating or watching a crowded race
    Attending crowded parades
    Indoor large parties
    Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

    Get more tips to stay healthy during the holidays at CDC.gov.

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