Your Guide to Holiday Gatherings During COVID-19

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDNovember 13th, 2020
family cooking with masks

For many people, the holiday season is the most exciting and magical time of the year. However, with COVID-19 still being an issue, there is an asterisk next to that excitement and joy. How can you gather with friends and family to celebrate your favorite festivities when you also want to be responsible and help prevent the spread of the virus? Unfortunately, you and your loved ones will probably have to shift how you observe the holidays this year. Adhere to your state and local guidelines, and then consider trying these helpful tips:

Less is More This Year

For many families, the holidays are the one time a year when everyone gets to see each other in person. This is especially true for 2020, as many family members have been unable to visit each other since the pandemic started. However, it’s strongly advised by health officials to keep the gatherings small this year. While you and your loved ones should determine what ‘small’ means to you, the safest course of action is to limit the guest list to only members of your household.

For long-distance family members and those who are at higher risk of suffering complications from COVID-19 symptoms, like seniors and those with pre-existing medical conditions, it’s probably best to celebrate from a distance. Arrange to have a device with a webcam available so you can join the festivities virtually.

Spend Time Outside If Possible

family outside with masks

Another way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during your holiday gatherings is to host them outdoors. Throughout many parts of the country, however, the holiday season is accompanied by colder weather. If you’re serious about seeing extended members of the family, then you can take several measures to enjoy an outdoor meal and gather as comfortable as possible, such as:

  • Purchasing space heaters
  • Having your meal during a warmer time of day
  • Doing an outdoor activity like playing in the park instead of having a sit-down meal

Even if you decide to celebrate the holidays outdoors this year, you should continue to follow safe practices recommended by the CDC, including:

  • Washing your hands
  • Avoiding close contact
  • Wearing a mask
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces

Go Big or Stay Home

Maybe you truly can’t imagine excluding any loved ones from the holiday celebrations—after all, the holidays can be a hard time to be alone. To ensure that your family is able to safely spend time together, you can ask that everyone gets tested for COVID-19 before getting together. If it’s important to them, they will agree to participate and only show up after receiving a negative result. Then, for any remaining days leading up to your celebration or gatherings, ask them to avoid any unnecessary exposure—this includes going to bars, restaurants, gyms, and salons. If anyone thinks this is too much to ask, then they have the choice to stay home and join the rest of the family virtually.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

Of course, if any type of gathering makes you feel uncomfortable, you should know that it’s absolutely okay to say no. In today’s climate, you certainly don’t need a reason for wanting to keep your distance, but there are certain factors that may warrant this desire to stay apart. Maybe your work causes you to be exposed to multiple people and you don’t want to risk spreading the virus to your loved ones, or you are the one who is more at risk of suffering from complications if exposed to COVID-19. If you choose to forgo the festivities, your family members should respect your wishes.

What to Do If You Start Experiencing Symptoms


In the event that you start experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 after a holiday gathering, you should get tested as soon as possible and stay home until you receive results. To limit your exposure to any more people, you can call on DispatchHealth for in-home testing and treatment.

Our medical providers will arrive at your home while wearing personal protection equipment to keep both you and our staff safe. We also make it exceptionally easy to schedule an appointment with us—you can do so through our website, mobile app, or by calling us. And of course, The DispatchHealth team wishes you health and happiness as we enter this holiday season.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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