Health officials release guidelines for safe celebration during holiday season

Photo of an airplane taking off at an airport
Antonio Martin/Staff
While viruses do not spread as easily on airplanes due to air circulation and filters, planes may be more crowded and therefore riskier during the holiday season, according to the guidelines.

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Health officials from city of Berkeley, Alameda County and nine other counties released guidelines Nov. 9 for safe celebration during the holiday season.

The official guidelines suggest keeping holiday celebrations “small, short, and stable,” and advise limiting gatherings to under three households and less than two hours. The guidelines also discourage participating in gatherings with various households.

“The more people come into contact with others outside their household, the higher the risk of spreading COVID-19,” said Alameda County Public Health Department spokesperson Neetu Balram in an email. “If you attend several gatherings over the holidays, keep it to the same group of people.”

According to the guidelines, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is also the highest in indoor facilities, so officials recommend keeping at least 75% of any gathering space outdoors.

Additionally, the guidelines included six safety tips: wearing face masks, maintaining six-feet distance from others, remaining outdoors as much as possible, sharing food safely, washing hands with soap and avoiding singing or shouting.

“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in many parts of the country,” the recommendations state. “Nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is not recommended. Travel outside the Bay Area will increase your chance of getting infected and spreading the virus to others after your return.”

For those who must travel during the holidays, the guidelines include steps to take such as ventilating spaces by opening windows in traveling vehicles and avoiding contact with frequently touched surfaces.

While viruses do not spread as easily on airplanes due to air circulation and filters, planes may be more crowded and therefore riskier during the holiday season, according to the guidelines. As a result, officials suggest that travelers plan ahead by checking whether the virus is spreading rapidly at their destination and if they have experienced COVID-19 symptoms.

“The holidays will look different this year,” Balram said. “Don’t engage in activities that increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Follow the holiday gathering and travel guidance. If you feel sick, stay home.”

Contact Jasmine Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JasmineLee_02.