The end of the year marks a season of back-to-back holidays and traditionally, tons of gatherings with friends and family. In 2020, the US saw its deadliest surge in COVID-19 cases as millions traveled to see loved ones following a tumultuous year in quarantine, against the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, with millions vaccinated and nearly another year of research on the coronavirus, the CDC has updated its holiday health guidelines for the upcoming season.
It should be noted though, that while the vaccine is available and cases and hospitalizations may be on the decline for now, precautions should still be taken to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the holidays.
Before we start figuring out who is bringing what sides to the function, the CDC recommends evaluating air circulation and consider other contactless ways to gather safely.
First, the CDC says that gathering outdoors is safer for multiple households than gathering indoors. But, if an indoor gathering is chosen, the agency recommends opening a window, or getting a a window fan to help circulate the air.
"You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window," the CDC says. "This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows."
Dr. Anthony Fauci says that air ventilation "is key" to making indoor gatherings safer.
"We know now that [COVID-19] is clearly spread by aerosol, and when you have something spread by aerosol, you absolutely want more ventilation, which is the reason why outdoors is always much safer than indoors," he told CBS' Face The Nation. "And if you're going to be indoors, ventilation is going to be key."
Contactless or minimal-contact events like the walk-by or drive-by festivities many of us participated in last year during lockdown are also on the agency's list of holiday recommendations.
For all the hosts of events, the CDC recommends communicating expectations and behaviors before the event so everyone is on notice before the fun begins.
For guests, if you are sick or have symptoms, the CDC says: stay home.
For a full list of the CDC's holiday recommendations, please click here.