Northborough Health Agent suggests tips for a safe holiday season


By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Northborough Health Agent suggests tips for a safe holiday season Region –  The holiday season has arrived and students will be on school break, which means more opportunities for people to get together. COVID-19 cases have surged since Thanksgiving, and Northborough’s new Health Agent Kristin Black, Ph.D., M.S. and Massachusetts General Hospital Infectious Disease Physician Andrea Ciaranello, M.D., M.P.H. urge you to reconsider traditional holiday plans to protect the ones you love.

“Even the most perfectly planned event is not risk-free if you are gathering with non-household members, especially indoors,” said Black. “The risk of at least one person at a gathering having COVID and spreading it to others is much higher than last month. We hope you will take the increased surge and state restrictions into account in your decision-making this season to protect the health of your loved ones, especially those at increased risk of severe illness, and our entire community.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said holiday celebrations with the people you live with or virtual celebrations are the safest choice this winter. The virus can “linger in the air for minutes to hours” and transmission can occur between people spaced more than six feet apart or after an infected person has left a space. Asymptomatic people can also spread the virus.

“The more closely you interact with others and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” said Ciaranello. “Gatherings without food or drink are safer as you don’t need to remove masks.”

The Massachusetts Governor’s Gathering Order limits indoor gatherings at private residences to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. The updated Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s guidance asks residents to limit holiday celebrations to household members only and advises postponing or cancelling travel.

“We all want to protect our loved ones, and the thought that they might become ill as a result of a holiday gathering is a terrible one,” said Black.

Consider creative, low-risk holiday activities:

  • Gather outdoors.
  • Remain at least 6’ apart when anyone is unmasked.
  • Remove masks only when actively eating or drinking (replace your mask between bites/sips and when chatting).
  • Meeting family or friends for a hike or walk or an outdoor gift exchange.
  • Virtual worship services are the safest; drive-in style and outdoor services wearing masks and social distancing are low risk. Indoor services with singing carry the greatest risk of COVID-10 transmission.
  • Virtual caroling
  • View neighborhood lights from the car.
  • Prepare foods for family and neighbors and deliver without contact.

If you must share a house:

  • Wear masks at all times except eating, drinking, bathing, and sleeping.
  • Have separate sleeping spaces for separate households.

Cancel any event or gathering if anyone in the household is sick or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“Remember that COVID-19 symptoms can be as mild as a little nasal stuffiness or a headache,” Ciaranello said.

Black and Ciaranello said there are two key questions when making a decision about gathering with others: What is the chance that someone will walk in the door with COVID, and what is the chance they will pass it to others who are there with them?

“The first depends on how many people will be present, and on the rates of COVID in our community, which are at the highest level since the start of the pandemic,” said Black. “The second depends on what prevention measures are in place.”

“The decisions we make over the next few weeks can protect not only our own families, but also people we don’t know, and can directly shape how much longer we all need to keep making sacrifices because of this pandemic,” said Ciaranello.



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