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To grandmother’s house or no? Families grapple with COVID-19 holiday plans

To grandmother’s house or no? Families grapple with COVID-19 holiday plans

Many families are having a difficult talk this year. What should you do for Thanksgiving and other holidays as the pandemic continues to take its toll across the country?

“It’s really tough when a lot of people haven’t seen their extended families for many months, even harder for those families who have aging parents or grandparents,” Robert Healy, MD, Carle Health chief Quality officer and Internal Medicine physician, said. “I keep hearing my own patients, friends and colleagues say ‘You know, it could be – insert family member’s name here’s – last Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthday.’”

Still, the safest thing to do is to stay home with those in your household to protect yourself and your loved ones.

In many areas of the country, COVID-19 rates are soaring and the lure of holiday gatherings coupled with more indoor activities may result in even more cases and illnesses.

“Our best and safest advice remains the same – minimize your in-person gatherings,” Tony Varma, DO, Infectious Diseases, said. “It’s a sacrifice that could save lives – especially of those most vulnerable like your aging parents or grandparents.”



If you do plan to get together, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends setting some ground rules.

“Commit to a safe and healthy celebration early on,” Dr. Varma said. “I know people have given up a lot these past few months, but now is not the time to let up. Our best and safest advice remains the same – minimize your in-person gatherings.” 

If you do plan to gather, Dr. Healy and Dr. Varma suggest following the latest guidance:

  • Quarantine for two weeks prior to a gathering. Attend work/school from home and shop online or utilize contactless pickup options.
  • Follow as many precautions as possible such as wearing a mask, washing your hands and practicing social distancing.
  • Know who is attending and how you will all get there to understand the risks.
  • If possible, get tested before you travel.
  • Get your flu shot.

“It’s a sacrifice to ask people to stay home before they travel, but it’s one that could save lives – especially of those most vulnerable and those closest to you. The last thing you want to bring along for the holidays is illness,” Dr. Healy said. 

For travel by road:

  • Minimize stops along the way such as gas stations, restrooms, etc.
  • Wear your mask.
  • Take along hand sanitizer.
For those flying:
  • Wear your mask.
  • Follow the marked spaced seating plans.

“For planners, this year will be especially hard because a lot can change between now and the big celebration. In many cases, you may be deciding the day before of even the day of, if it’s wise to make a trek,” Dr. Healy said. 


“I know it seems awkward but the best defense you can offer during the event is to continue to wear your mask even indoors and keep a little space between family members,” Dr. Varma said.

If you’re hosting, infectious disease experts advise frequent cleaning of commonly touched surfaces or shared items.

“There are a number of ways to minimize spread of illness such as having one person wearing gloves and a mask serve others to minimize contact with serving utensils,” Dr. Varma said. “If possible, use a touchless garbage can such as one with a foot pedal or motion sensor.” 


Don’t let your hard work go to waste. Continue to follow proven best practices to prevent illnesses including COVID-19. Monitor yourself for symptoms and be sure to alert your event host if you fall ill or test positive for COVID-19 right away so they can help inform other guests about their potential exposure.

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: COVID-19, health