How To Have A Very Merry Safe Christmas In Washington

WASHINGTON — Christmas is just hours away, but this year’s celebrations are going to look a lot different for most people across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health have both been warning residents since Thanksgiving that, during this latest, greatest surge in coronavirus infections, one of the worst things you could do is travel for the holidays.

“We are still strongly urging everyone to limit in-person celebrations for the upcoming holidays like Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s, and really focus on spending those holidays only with their immediate households,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy director of COVID response.

Instead, they are strongly encouraging everyone to consider alternatives to meeting in person, like celebrating only with your own household, or hosting a Christmas party online over programs like Zoom or Skype. If residents do choose to meet up in person, state officials have asked that they do so outdoors, while wearing masks and practicing safe social distancing. Other suggested alternatives include virtual movie-watching parties, dropping off treats for friends and family or enjoying a safer outdoor activity like hiking or sledding.

“It’s not too late to decide to make safer plans to protect your friends and family, and our broader community,” Ferhenbach said. “We know that many of us are deeply missing our loved ones and really wish we could be together in person this year, but we have to recognize we’re still on shaky ground. Planning low-risk holiday celebrations now will save lives in the weeks ahead.”

State leaders also stress: don’t let yourself be pushed into an unsafe gathering if you do not want to attend. You can say no.

“There are several ways to do this politely and kindly,” says behavioral health psychologist Dr. Kira Mauseth, about declining an invitation to gather. “Saying no effectively starts with just that – saying no. A simple, direct response is the best way to make yourself understood and closes the door for negotiations. Offer alternatives, be honest, don’t feel pressured to keep the conversation going, and show them the facts if they have questions.”

However, if residents decide they absolutely must travel for the holidays or attend holiday gatherings, the CDC is asking them to follow these safety guidelines.

Don’t Blindly Get Tested

Unless you were exposed to the coronavirus or have COVID-19 symptoms, the state DOH says don’t bother getting tested. Around Thanksgiving Washington’s COVID-19 testing sites were overwhelmed by healthy residents getting tests to “clear” themselves for holiday gatherings.

By skipping unnecessary testings, health officials say we ensure testing access to those who need to be tested the most.

Hosting A Gathering

  • Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where your guests live. Use state, local, territorial or tribal health department websites.

  • Limit the number of guests you invite.

  • If weather permits, plan a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live nearby.

  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between uses.

  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.

  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.

  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.

  • If sharing food, have one person serve food while wearing a mask. Use single-use dinnerware, such as plastic utensils.

  • Use touchless garbage cans if available.

  • Treat pets as you would other human family members. Do not let pets interact with people outside your household.

Attending A Celebration

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.

  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.

  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as the kitchen.

  • Use single-use dinnerware and other items, such as salad dressing and condiment packets.

If You’re Traveling

  • Check travel restrictions before you go.

  • Get your flu shot before you travel.

  • Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.

  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.

  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

Other Safety Precautions

  • Get your flu shot.

  • Wear a mask, making sure it’s over the nose and under the chin.

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people who do not live with you.

See the CDC’s full guidance online. More guidance from Washington’s Department of Health can also be found at

This article originally appeared on the Seattle Patch

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