CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Let’s face it, the holidays are synonymous with parties and gatherings with family and friends.
But COVID-19 has changed the world we live in, and it’ll change the way we celebrate.
UNC Charlotte public health professor Dr. Michael Thompson suggests being selective about your guests.
“Really, the strategy has to be thinking about how do we safely expand our social bubble," he said. "If they’re 25 people you've been isolating with or sharing the same values of how you're isolating that’s one thing, 25 strangers is another."
Dr. Thompson added hosts should be conscious of their space and plan accordingly.
"I think the real issue of the recommendation for indoors is just the manageability of size," he said. “Some people have houses with more space, and it's easier to maintain distance and still be inside.”
Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor, but since November and December nights can be chilly, consider a holiday-themed backyard brunch to enjoy the warmth of sunshine.
Small plates people can walk around with are ideal but if you do want a sit-down meal, go with several smaller tables with fewer chairs at each.
“It's about thinking about the space and the arrangements," Dr. Thompson said.
Have wine charms, labels or cocktail picks for guests to mark their drinks and food. Sharing is not caring in 2020.
And if you’re not comfortable hosting in person – there are so many ways to get creative with virtual parties.
For Halloween, try a zoom costume contest, pumpkin carving, or murder mystery party.
For the winter holidays, set up a virtual cooking class or wine tasting, a white elephant or secret Santa gift exchange, or holiday-themed trivia.
There are even virtual escape rooms you can try to crack with family and friends.
The most important thing is to not get complacent and to consider the risks before hosting or attending a gathering this year.
“We've had many events where lots of people were there and nothing happened," Dr. Thompson said. "Then you have another event where at least one person was ill and suddenly everyone has it. It's like playing roulette."
Dr. Thompson also said people shouldn’t rely on the method of asking everyone to get tested before attending, because someone could easily fall in that window between being infected and actually testing positive.