How to Make Gatherings Safe During the Holidays

Nov 29, 2021

6 min read
Another Christmas is soon approaching in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, and slowly but surely, we’re getting through it. With every person that is fully-vaccinated, we get one step closer to normalcy, and with that, being able to catch up with loved ones we haven’t seen in person in what feels like forever!
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how to be safe during during the holidays amidst the pandemic

However, just because we’re on our way back to the “old normal” doesn’t mean we’re there yet. We still have to take the necessary precautions to ensure we all stay safe, especially during gatherings. However, with proper planning and the right tools–which we’ll list down below–you can make your holiday gatherings fun and safe!

1. Make sure your home has optimal ventilation.

One of the best ways to reduce the chances of catching Covid-19 is to not allow droplets left behind by errant coughs or sneezes filled with the virus to linger in the air. Properly ventilating your home so that it constantly circulates clean, fresh air sweeps much of the virus (if any) out of your home where it cannot find a host.

You can improve the ventilation in your home by simply opening windows and screened doors to let in fresh air (as long as doing so won’t pose a risk to children or family members that are prone to allergy attacks, or if there’s a lot of pollution coming from outside). This can be improved even further if you cross-ventilate, which involves opening windows and/or doors on opposite sides of the home so the air fully circulates throughout the entire home instead of a limited number of areas. If your home has multiple floors, you can also cross-ventilate by opening the highest- and lowest-situated windows (on different floors) at the same time.

Another way to improve ventilation is to use electric fans in combination with opening doors and windows. You can place them in front of a window, whether to blow in fresh air from outdoors or to blow out stale air from inside. Just make sure that the fans don’t blow air directly from one person to another, which defeats the purpose and could accelerate the transmission of viruses. Fans are particularly useful in bathrooms that tend to have poor natural air circulation, so turning on a fan during and after use can help air it out.

home ventilation

2. Use your air conditioner.

Speaking of ventilation, ACs can also help in this regard, as they not only bring in fresh air from outside but have filters that can reduce airborne contaminants, including some viruses, indoors. Do note that having your AC on doesn’t prevent Covid-19 from spreading or eliminate the virus from the air. Nevertheless, it does help with the generally good practice of increasing ventilation, and every extra step taken to remove the potential presence of the virus helps.

If you happen to have a full, house-wide HVAC system, you could improve your home’s ventilation by running the system fan for longer times since the AC only filters the air when the fan is on. This can be done even without heating or cooling.

For either a full HVAC system or a series of individual ACs, check that the filters are set properly and are regularly changed (or changed once they become exceptionally dirty) to make sure your ACs effectively filter the air.

air conditioner filter

3. Use a portable air cleaner or air purifier if you have one.

Air purifiers or air cleaners are great at removing airborne contaminants, viruses, and other particulate matter, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they remove the Covid-19 virus entirely from the air, especially if used without other safety measures. Still, using an air purifier or air cleaner will improve air quality, which has general health benefits.

make gatherings safe by using portable air cleaner or air purifier

Here are some basic reminders about air purifiers or air cleaners for when you use them:

  • Use them in the room or rooms where you or people most susceptible to disease stay in.
  • In general terms, using a higher fan speed and keeping the air purifier on for longer will lead to more air filtered.
  • For filtering particles, get an air purifier that has a clean air delivery rate (CADR) large enough for the room’s size or the area you plan to use it in. The higher the CADR, the more particles your air purifier will be able to filter out, and the more capable it will be for cleaning the air in large areas. Air purifiers tend to get high CADRs by using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.
  • For filtering gases, get an air purifier that uses activated carbon filters. When the filters are regularly changed (especially if your air is particularly contaminated by gases or airborne particles), these kinds of air purifiers can greatly reduce the presence of those foul and/or harmful odors and particles.
  • For general disinfection in addition to air purification, get an ultraviolet (UV) light air purifier. This kind of air purifier bombards air that it sucks in with UV rays—a process which destroys viruses and bacteria. In the near-impossible case that a stray bit of virus or bacteria survives, it’s bound to be trapped in the air purifier’s filters.
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4. If possible, have your family gatherings take place in an outdoor area.

Now that you have an idea of good ways you can clean the air or create an inhospitable environment for viruses, let’s move on to the more difficult task of managing human behavior. Like it or not, some people, even if they are our own family members, can be forgetful, careless, or downright uncooperative. That’s why if you have a family gathering, the best-case scenario might be the one where there’s the least chance of failure.

family gatherings outdoor area

To that end, a well-ventilated location or one with an open-air setup is far superior to a small space indoors where the air can’t circulate. This is because the virus cannot survive very long in a place that’s too well-ventilated to infect a host. A large yard or events area that has the seating spread out could serve this purpose.

Also, don’t forget that the more people there are, the greater the chances of someone getting or spreading an infection. Try as much as possible to limit the number of guests or attendees. Continue practicing physical distancing of at least 6 feet (especially if your gathering is in an indoor location), like planning specific seating arrangements or not doing a buffet-style meal.

5. Make provisions for guests to frequently wash their hands and sanitize.

While it may be a hassle to constantly wash one’s hands, it’s one of the best ways to prevent contamination and spread of diseases (not just Covid-19). Making sure that there are a lot of hand towels, soap, and trash bins can go a long way to making your gathering much safer.

prevent contamination by sanitizing hands

In particular, it’s recommended to wash your hands in these scenarios as outlined by the US CDC:

  • Before eating or preparing food
  • Before touching your face
  • After using the washroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching or adjusting your face mask
  • After changing a diaper
  • After attending to a sick individual

Ideally, we’d save family gatherings for a safer, post-pandemic time, but by taking the proper steps, it’s possible to still have them while making them as safe as possible. With these tips, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy a long-awaited family gathering without anyone getting sick!

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