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’Tis The Season

If you have questions about ducking the virus and partying this winter, then here are a few answers

Tara Parker-Pope , Kenneth Chang   |   Published 01.12.21, 12:24 AM

After nearly two years of pandemic living, we are all ready to spend more time with friends and family. And most public health experts agree that it is okay to make holiday plans with your favourite people, as long as you are taking precautions. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for lowering risk, answering a few simple questions can help you make decisions about safer holiday gatherings. Let’s get started.

Will everyone at the gathering be vaccinated?


Yes. Happy Vaxgiving! Enjoy your celebration knowing that by being vaccinated, you have already made the party safer for everyone.

No. Children will not be vaccinated. Some adults and teens will not be vaccinated. The risk goes down greatly when all eligible adults and teens are vaccinated. 

The reality is that a lot of people we care about have refused the shot. If you are going to a mixed-vax gathering, here is how to lower the risk.

Start by asking the other guests their ideas for gathering safely. Focus on solutions instead of arguing about vaccines. On-the-spot rapid tests are a great way to lower risk. Improving ventilation can help, too: opening windows, using exhaust fans, adding portable air cleaners or moving the event outdoors.

Is there anyone at your gathering who is older or at higher risk for complications from Covid-19?

Yes. A lot of people will share their holidays with an older parent, grandparent or others at high risk. The key to a safer celebration is this: plan the event around the most vulnerable person in the room.

Consider bringing the party to them so someone at high risk does not have to spend time in airports or on trains.

Getting tested a few days before the party and using on-the-spot home tests on the day of the event will allow you to enjoy one another’s company without worrying. Adding a portable air cleaner, opening windows or turning on exhaust fans can also lower risk for Covid-19 and any other viruses that might be lurking. Anyone with the sniffles should stay home.

Nobody likes wearing masks — and if everyone is vaccinated and tested, they’re not really needed. But some high-risk people may be more comfortable using them and asking others to wear them.

No. If everyone at the party is relatively young and healthy, you may decide that being vaccinated is enough and that additional precautions, like on-the-spot testing, are not needed. Covid-19 vaccines do a good job of protecting you from serious illness.

Are you travelling to the gathering?

Nope. We are hosting (or staying in town). Less travel means less risk.

Yes. We are flying. Airport terminals are packed with people (and probably the virus). Upgrade your mask to a high-quality medical mask like an N95, KN95 or KF94. If that is

not an option, then double mask with a surgical mask and quality cloth mask.

Avoid airport crowds, keep your distance in security screening lines, use hand sanitiser often and do not touch your face.

Planes have excellent ventilation systems that clean the air every 2-3 minutes. (Many office buildings clean the air about every 15 minutes.) Avoid flights with layovers if possible.

Keep your mask on the whole time. Skip airplane meals if you can, or try to eat after everyone else finishes and puts their mask back on. It is OK to take your mask off for a short time if you need to eat or drink.

Yes. We are driving. Travelling to your holiday party by car, with members of your immediate household, is a lower-risk option.

How is the Covid-19 situation where you are celebrating?

Things are looking pretty good. When you travel, check local Covid-19 conditions like you would the weather. Your risk of crossing paths with the coronavirus is lowest in areas where more people are vaccinated and the number of Covid-19 cases are low and falling.

And it is still a good idea to wear a mask in public spaces, even if you are vaccinated.

If you are headed to a Covid-19 hot spot, you should take extra precautions. Wear a mask in public spaces, and you may want to avoid indoor dining, especially if someone in your group is at high risk.

How big is the gathering?

Two households. Keeping your holiday celebration small is a good way to minimise risk. When you limit a gathering to just two households, it is easier to keep track of risky behaviours and potential exposures.

Three or more households. Wow! Sounds like a fun party! Just remember when family and friends from multiple households gather, it creates more opportunities for the virus to sneak in. This does not mean large families should not spend time together. But it does make it even more important that you take as many precautions as possible before and during the event.

Improve ventilation by opening windows and turning on exhaust fans. Use portable air cleaners in rooms where people will be gathering.

Before the party, check with everyone to find out if they are taking the same daily precautions that you do — like wearing masks and avoiding crowded places.


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