Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

by Leslie Horton, MA, MCHES, Director Yavapai County Community Health Services 

With the holiday season upon us, many people are hoping to take a break from social distancing for some much-needed family time. There are no easy ways to make plans right now — especially if you or someone in your family is at high risk for serious illness or complications from COVID-19. 

To close a very challenging year, we all need things to look forward to, often including our beloved annual traditions with family members. Together, we can all decide to celebrate responsibly while keeping cautious protocols in place that will result in everyone experiencing the joy of the season while feeling healthy and connected. 

Here are some ways to enjoy the holidays keeping health and safety in mind:

Plan ahead. If you can manage outdoor gatherings for the majority of your guests, this would be the ideal scenario. For those coming from outside your household or family circle, request when possible, that they wear masks, especially when not able to distance from others. 

Protect your older and more vulnerable family members. Older adults and individuals with pre-existing health conditions are far more likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms and complications. If possible, avoid close quarters interaction with these individuals. If the decision is made to visit older adults in person, practice social distancing, and mask wearing is extremely important. 

If hosting or participating in any in-person festivities, be sure you and your household are not currently sick, have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, and are not under a quarantine or isolation period. Limit hugging those most vulnerable to illness, and consider allowing some people to attend virtually. 

If planning a sit-down meal, limit the number of attendees. Try to seat people in a well-ventilated or outdoor area that is not enclosed, especially when hosting people not from your immediate household. Consider going on a hike together following the meal or a neighborhood walk to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, rather than sitting together for a prolonged period of time in close proximity. 

Take care of yourself and do things you enjoy with people you enjoy, while helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Read your favorite story, share favorite memories, reach out to friends and family who live at a distance, go for a walk, be active, and stay connected through healthy activities, laughter and creating new memories. 

Holiday travel tips: 

  • Stay local if at all possible. 
  • Wear masks, social distance, use sanitizer, and follow airline guidelines if traveling by airplane. 
  • If traveling by car with people outside of the household, take precautions. 
  • If inside a vehicle with people outside your household, wear masks and increase ventilation. 

Food safety tips: 

  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces. Ask guests to use their clean silverware to serve. 
  • Wash hands before and after food prep, serving and eating food. 
  • Instead of potluck styles gatherings, encourage guests to bring wrapped food containers. 
  • If serving food, consider having one person serve food to all in attendance to limit multiple people handling the food. 
  • Wear a mask if serving or preparing food. 
  • If you choose to use reusable items, wash and disinfect them after the event. 

Safe activities: 

  • Consider having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family. 
  • Shop online instead of in-person the day after Thanksgiving. 
  • Watch sports events, parades and movies from home. 
  • Stay in touch by text, virtual meetings, phone calls, letters.

Yavapai County Resources: