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A COVID-Free Holiday Season

Published on Nov. 23, 2020

How to Spread Joy without Spreading COVID-19

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With COVID-19 on the rise in our region, it's essential to get creative when it comes to spreading holiday cheer this season. The last thing anyone wants is a sick family member or – even worse – a loved one in the hospital because of avoiding precautions like social distancing. So how can your holidays stay merry and bright while staying safe and protecting others? While the festivities are sure to look different this year, different doesn't have to mean disappointing. Check out our top suggestions for getting festive to the fullest during COVID-19. 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Gathering

The holiday season just happens to coincide with a second wave of COVID-19 that is impacting our region far more dramatically than before. With fall coming to a close and the frosty winter chill starting to kick in full force, the outdoor gatherings you may have enjoyed during the warmer months are no more. Unfortunately, those cozy indoor gatherings we've all enjoyed in the past do not have the added benefit of fresh, circulating air and more open spaces that make social distancing easier.

The more people you invite, the harder it is to offer people the opportunity to spread out so that a simple sneeze, cough, or laugh doesn't compromise others. For this reason, the new Michigan Gatherings and Face Mask Order requires including no more than two households (up to 10 people) for your indoor celebrations. Big family? Make it a Zoom-sgiving where you can safely connect to everyone in your inner circle, give thanks, play virtual party games, and more.

“The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of spread,” says Munson Healthcare’s Chief Medical Officer Christine Nefcy, MD, FAAP. “Be thoughtful about who you bring into your home and careful about how many. Pandemic fatigue is real, but it’s important we as a community continue to pay attention – now is not the time thankfulness, not for complacency.”

Dish out the Pumpkin Pie…

Rather than passing the cranberry sauce or going full-blown buffet style like you normally do, designate just one or two food servers who agree to wear masks and even a pair of disposable gloves. That way, you can dig in without inadvertently spreading germs. Use this same serving style with your appetizers too. 

Other tips include:

  • Use assigned glassware or offer disposal cups with names on them.
  • Dish seperate social distance holiday season celebrate safe Munson HealthcareBuy festive disposable plates, bowls, and plastic utensils that can be easily disposed of when finished.
  • Save the punch for next year or pour it into a dispenser so it’s not sitting uncovered
  • Think bottled or canned sodas and water rather than pitchers or 2-liters.
  • Avoid hors d’oeuvres that aren’t individually wrapped, plated, or skewered with a toothpick.
  • Put munchies like dips/spreads nuts and chips in individual bowls that guests can access quickly without hovering or contaminating others’ food. Or, consider having separate trays and bowls for each household.

Keep Your Distance

Remember that even the slightest cough, sneeze, or laugh can send hundreds of tiny virus-contaminated droplets into the air. Ask everyone to mask when you’re not eating. As best you can, place six feet or more between chairs or group your seating by household so two people from different households are seated within six feet of each other. Consider activities that encourage social distancing, such as movies and games like charades or Scattegories (versus board games or cards).

When you're ready to serve your meal, think about alternative ways to seat guests. For example, you might set up two dining tables for each household that still encourage a sense of togetherness while maintaining six feet or more apart.

Deck the Halls with Plenty of Hand Sanitizer

Want guests to keep their hands clean? Keep hand sanitizer (with 60% or more alcohol) out on display in your common rooms as a visual reminder. And don’t forget to swap your guest hand towels for paper towels (and soap bars for pump soap) instead. Or, if you have more than one bathroom and you’re sticking to the two-household rule, reserve one bathroom strictly for your guests.

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Plan a Snow Party

Instead of hanging out indoors, why not meet up for some wintery fun instead? Choose festive activities that allow you to spend time together without giving up your personal space. Here are just a few ideas for starters: 

  • Go for a winter walk in the woods
  • Have a snowman building competition
  • Head to the slopes for some sledding fun

Symptom-Free Guests Only

In the age of COVID-19, it's perfectly polite – and encouraged – to ask your guests to monitor their symptoms and/or share if they’ve had an exposure before coming to visit or enjoy a meal. If any guests are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (or have been exposed), they should stay home to rest, recover, and stop the spread to others. 

These symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing*
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest*
  • New confusion*
  • Inability to wake or stay awake*
  • Bluish lips or face*

*Emergency warning signs – seek medical care immediately!

Not sure if the symptoms you have could be COVID-19? Use our free online COVID-19 Symptom Checker

Get your Flu Shots

In addition to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases here in northern Michigan, it's also flu season!

Flu and COVID-19 symptoms are very similar, and to complicate things, we don't yet know what kind of flu season we face.

"If the flu season is an average one on top of another surge of COVID-19, it could significantly stress our limited health system resources in northern Michigan," Dr. Nefcy explains. 

If you haven't yet received your seasonal flu shot, make an appointment with your family doctor or check out the many locations in our region where flu shots are available (including free drive-thru flu shots) – and encourage your company to do the same.

Find a FREE Flu Clinic

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season! 

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On behalf of our entire Munson Healthcare Team, we wish you a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year! While it’s certainly a different season than we’re all used to, we thank you for the sacrifices you’re making to help keep our communities safe during this second wave of COVID-19. 

“You can feel good about helping to protect your loved ones from getting sick while also keeping hospital beds open for emergencies and scheduled surgeries,” shares Dr. Nefcy.  

COVID-19 in Northern Michigan