The holidays are fast approaching, and many are beginning to think about how to celebrate. This year has been a surreal experience, with a constant need for learning and adjustment in order to take on the challenges that each day presents. For many, food and family have been two major components of a pandemic self-care plan and the coming season is a perfect marriage of both. But as much as we all miss our families and want to celebrate the season with them, safety comes first.
Holiday gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve may put people at increased risk of COVID-19 infection. However, with the right mindset, adequate preparation, and an understanding of appropriate mitigative measures, it is possible to celebrate with loved ones. Here’s how you can assemble your own pandemic pod and celebrate safely.
With the right mindset, preparation, and understanding of mitigative measures, it is possible to celebrate the holidays with loved ones in a pandemic pod.
First Things First: Make a Decision
Whether you plan to have a traditional holiday dinner or just want to be surrounded by family for a week or two, make a decision about what your holiday season will look like socially. Decide who you want to invite—stick to guests in the local vicinity as much as possible, and limit the number of visitors to a safe amount. Also, carefully consider factors such as how much you trust each individual’s adherence to COVID-19 safety measures before including them in a pandemic pod. If you’ve got a cousin who usually comes to Thanksgiving but hasn’t been known to wear a mask or socially distance properly in the last few months, perhaps leave them off your list. It’s as much about your safety and that of your other guests as it is about generally not contributing to further spikes of infection rates.
Next, Create a Safety Plan
You’ve taken the first step of outlining your holiday plans and putting together a guest list, and now it’s time to think about how to navigate D-day safely. Map out a timeline for the weeks before, making sure to allow time for social isolation and testing if necessary. Ensuring that all attendees are healthy will give you one less thing to worry about.
Determine how best to navigate food service: Will you be pre-packaging meals in individual containers for each person to minimize cross-contamination? Are you going to swap out the fancy china for disposable tableware? Settle on what works best for you early so that you have enough time to shop for the necessary supplies.
Notify Your Dining Party
Reach out to the people on your pandemic pod guest list, communicating your plans and health guidelines. Explain what your safety requirements are, as well as why they are important—for instance, asking all guests to avoid social interaction with people outside their households for 14 days prior and getting tested a day or two before. Be firm in your demands and convey that anyone who is unwilling to abide by your guidelines at this time is welcome to skip out on the celebration. Being flexible to accommodate one or two people comes at the expense of the health and safety of everyone else in the pandemic pod. If you and your guests are similarly-minded about the severity of our collective present situation and the importance of caution, it should be easy to get everyone on board.
Prepare and Gather Your Supplies
Now that you have a game plan, it’s time to move on to prep. Stock up on extra face masks for guests, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial soap for the restrooms. Consider hosting an alfresco affair if the weather will permit. If outdoor conditions or space are issues, ensure that the space where you will be gathering is properly ventilated. The use of air purifiers is another mitigation strategy to consider, as these devices reduce the potential spread of infectious droplets.
Plan to set out food, drinks, and utensils in an area where people can collect it without being too closely confined, and space out seating to limit close contact between individuals from different households. Lastly, clean and sanitize your home before and after your holiday gathering, paying special attention to high-traffic areas and surfaces.
On the Day of
Greet guests at the door, requesting that they immediately wash their hands. Inform them of the setup that you have constructed for their safety and reiterate the importance of taking caution. Keep signs in view reminding everyone to wash their hands and sanitize regularly. Restrict guests from food-prep areas, and for drinks, have a labelling system that reduces the chances of one guest swapping with another by accident. Special drink stickers to designate different owners is a good idea. Asking guests to bring their own drinks (like beers and sodas) is also not a bad idea.
Plan to isolate and get tested after the festivities are over and advise all your guests to do the same. We should all be doing our best to make sure that our actions during this time don’t activate yet another spike in infections and put others in danger. Eat, drink, and be merry, but be safe while you do it.