Last year, many families relegated their holidays to the internet, preferring to fire up the Zoom instead of the fireplace at grandma’s house.
But with over 65% of Americans now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, many people are probably hoping to make the holidays look a little more normal this year.
And this week, the CDC released some official guidance on how to keep fall and winter holiday celebrations safe Their recommendations include getting everyone eligible vaccinated, gathering outdoors and keeping indoor spaces well-ventilated.
For people celebrating in-person, the agency first recommends that everyone eligible get vaccinated, and that anyone unvaccinated older than two years old wear a mask indoors in public. Currently, vaccines against the coronavirus are safe and approved for anyone aged 12 and older — though approval for kids aged five and up could be coming this fall, which could mean kids are at least partially vaccinated, if not fully vaccinated, by Christmas.
They also recommend holding off on any travel plans if you haven’t been fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since your final vaccine dose. For families with younger kids who still can’t get vaccinated, the CDC refers to its guidance on travel for this group, which includes wearing masks, keeping distance, and traveling with only members of your household.
The CDC also notes that outdoor holiday celebrations are safer than indoor ones. They suggest seeing friends and neighbors outside, leaving food or gifts at people’s doors, or even creating a virtual celebration.
But for those with in-person celebrations, making sure spaces remain well-ventilated could be important, NBC News notes. Official CDC holiday recommendations include using a window fan to blow air out of the house and pull fresh air in. This guidance isn’t surprising: public health experts have grown increasingly adamant about the importance of adequate ventilation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses, The Atlantic reports.
As temperatures in many parts of the country drop, some people might be wary of keeping the windows open. But the need for wintertime ventilation was actually built into many older homes and buildings. While experts knew far less about epidemiology 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu, they did figure that fresh air could help prevent disease, Bloomberg reports. In the years after, many homes had heaters installed that could keep the house warm with the windows open in the dead of winter, the publication reports. But even in newer buildings, ventilation is a key aspect of safe, indoor gatherings.
Overall, many of the CDC’s holiday recommendations are similar to their normal COVID precautions — seek out fresh air, wear a mask, and get vaccinated. And as we roll into our second holiday season under the cloud of this pandemic, those suggestions remain as important as ever.