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Walnut Creek Magazine

Reimagining the Holidays COVID-19 Style

Nov 10, 2020 12:23PM ● By Pam Kessler

After eight months and counting, our inability to participate in holiday rituals like before is likely to ruffle a few feathers, but the pandemic is still very much with us. According to the New York Times interactive case count data, over the past week, an average of 116,448 cases per day were reported, reflecting an increase of 64 percent from the average two weeks earlier. 

While so far the Bay Area has escaped a big case surge and rise in hospitalizations, anxious eyes are on what is happening around the rest of the country as college students prepare to return home for the holidays. As a result, health officers from the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz, and the City of Berkeley issued joint guidelines for staying safe. The fact sheet covers gatherings and travel, with recommended steps to celebrate the season safely.

"With cases rising around the country, and beginning to increase here in Contra Costa County, despite our virus fatigue, we all must come together and keep up our efforts to reduce transmission," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer. "When people who live in different households are together at the same time in the same space, the risk of COVID-19 spreading goes up, even when the people are relatives or friends. Please celebrate safely this year and protect yourself and your family by including masks, keeping a distance, and staying outdoors."

The main tenets of the holiday guidelines include: keeping it small, short, and stable, avoiding travel long distances, gathering with no more than three separate households (including the hosts themselves) in an outside, socially distanced space for a recommended two-hour time period. Handwashing and mask-wearing (when not eating or drinking) are a given. Buffet setups, passed plates, and punch bowls should be avoided, and single-use disposable containers and utensils are preferred.

Even alfresco, however, experts recommend setting up “bubbles” for each household. In a backyard, that means using tables spaced at least six feet apart. Now is a good time to round up outdoor canopies, umbrellas, ice chests, beverage tubs, string lights, fire pits, and heat lamps — if you can find them. Or go small, keep traditions alive with your immediate family, and hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy next year. 

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