With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, hosting friends and loved ones during the holidays might look different this year, and maybe for a few years moving forward. If you’re planning to host a gathering (or go to one yourself), there are a few things to keep in mind so you can stay safe during these crazy times, or even if you have a family member with seasonal allergies. This guide is a resource to help you, but keep in mind that you should always follow the current guidelines set forth by both the CDC and your state and local government. However, if you’re not planning to cancel the holidays but you want to keep yourself and others safe, downsizing your plans and staying flexible is vital to protect the health of those you love. It’s also ok if you choose not to gather until the dust settles. If you just can’t resist the idea of having a festive party or fun dinner, this guide will help you keep the health of those you love in mind as we enter the holiday season and prepare your home for your guests.
Before You Gather
Before you start planning a menu and picking out decorations, there are a few important things to prepare before you gather together. Each of these steps should be made with the health and safety of everyone as well as the current local mandates in your area in mind. If you’re hosting an indoor-only celebration, try to keep the number of guests limited to a small group. If you’re doing things entirely outdoors, you may be able to have a few more, but it’s always best to keep your guest list as small as possible to ensure everyone has enough room to be at least 6 feet apart at all times.
- Who will Attend? The first thing you should do is determine who will attend your holiday celebration. It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page as you are in regard to general health and safety. Think about how many people you’ll have in your home at any given time as well as their ages. Will, it mostly be a group of adults, or will there also be a sprinkling of children, too? You should also consider where your guests are coming from if they’re arriving from another county or state to determine current levels of risk. Finally, think about anyone who is planning to travel, and make sure that they have safe accommodations for the night. If you host them at your home, make sure you have ample house space so they have privacy and can practice social distancing and proper hygiene throughout the duration of their stay.
- Eating and Socializing: To keep everyone safe, you’ll need to practice smart social distancing, even while eating and entertaining. If the weather cooperates, hosting your meal or party outside is ideal since it provides the best level of ventilation possible. If not, make sure you arrange seating so that everyone is at least 6 feet apart at all times. Encourage everyone to wear a mask when they’re not eating and avoid group photos or other situations where everyone would be close together for an extended amount of time.
- Overnight Guests: Plan ahead for people who need to spend the night in your home by setting up a spare room in advance. Stock the guest bathroom with plenty of towels and toiletries so they already have what they need. Ask guests to put their towels and linens into the washing machine themselves when possible to minimize contact. Provide disinfecting wipes and politely ask everyone to use them to wipe down surfaces like the toilet and bathroom vanity after each use.
- Set up Rules in Advance: It’s crucial to lay down some ground rules ahead of time so all of your guests are on the same page. You can send these rules in a group email and then post them on a large piece of poster board or paper and display them in your home. Having everyone on the same page is key to ensuring that everyone stays safe both during and after the festivities.
During the Stay
When hosting guests, be sure to follow the current rules and safety guidelines in your state. Once you have all of your plans in place, there are several things that you as a host/hostess can do to keep safety at the top of your mind:
- Provide everyone with the tools they need to stay safe including extra masks, small bottles of hand sanitizer gel, and plenty of antibacterial soap. If you need to, place large markers on the floor to ensure that everyone sticks to the social distancing rules.
- Keep a safe distance of at least six feet from everyone and try to limit the number of people going in and out of the kitchen while you’re preparing food. This same rule should apply to people going in and out of the front or back door, too.
- Designate one person to be the “waiter” or server during the festivities and have them bring food and beverages to your guests. This eliminates the traditional “line” or crowd you normally see when you’re hosting a meal or a party that involves food.
- Encourage everyone to wash their hands and sanitize them as much as possible. Promote safe handling around food and drinks and continue to encourage proper safe behaviors of all your guests throughout the party (just be careful not to do it so much that it becomes annoying).
- Use the biggest part of your home as the dining area (i.e. you can convert your living room into a dining room temporarily). Try to keep the home well-ventilated by opening windows or at least cracking them if possible.
- You can use your garage as a comfy lounge space if the weather permits. This area is much more well-ventilated than the interior of the home, and it opens up a lot more house space for people to socially distance themselves.
- Designate a few parts of your home as a standing area only. In other areas, you can create a comfortable separate “safe space” for the older or elderly attendees.
Guests from out of town may visit as long as it’s currently allowed in their (and your) state and local area per the current guidelines. If you’re hosting someone overnight, it’s even more important to practice a few extra safety precautions. First, make sure you clean and disinfect all commonly touched areas like doorknobs, countertops, and tables, you can also hire an expert cleaning service. Next, plan ahead and make a safe space for your guests so that they are comfortable, have plenty of room, and feel safe throughout their stay:
- Start maximizing home spaces by clearing out your home to make more room. This means rearranging furniture so that every room is more open, getting rid of excess clutter, and putting clothes away so everything is neat and tidy.
- Consider investing in an air mattress and make sure you have plenty of clean and comfortable bedding like cozy blankets and soft sheets.
- Make the spare room for guests sleep-friendly by providing them with a fan and position the mattress near a lamp so your guests can easily see or read before they turn in.
- Stock up your bathroom with important necessities like shampoo and soap. Include extra safety-related items like extra masks, hand sanitizer gel, and disinfecting wipes.
- Fold the sheets and put the mattress away during the day to make more room. It’s a quick, easy way to open up your home and provide more space for everyone to stretch out and stay distanced as needed.
After the Celebration
Once the festivities are over, it’s crucial to practice a few extra steps to keep yourself and your family safe:
- Clean your home thoroughly after all of the guests have left your home. Wear gloves so you don’t touch items like glassware that people have come in contact with. (It’s best to use disposable dinnerware and cups when possible.) Follow some tips on how to speed clean your home.
- Sanitize social areas thoroughly including commonly touched areas like the bathroom and kitchen. Don’t forget to wipe off doorknobs and appliance handles, too. Use high-quality products that contain effective disinfecting ingredients. Wash all bedding and towels at the hottest temperature setting on your washing machine to kill germs and sanitize your linens. You can also follow these tips to avoid smelly towels.
- If possible, use touchless garbage cans with a foot pedal to open and close the lid. Wear gloves when you clean and try to keep everything clean and sanitized moving forward. Get rid of all garbage immediately including uneaten food, paper plates, and napkins, and put everything in one bag. Seal the bag and put it outside.
- Finally, pay close attention to how you feel a few days after your gathering. Make sure you’re familiar with the most common symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested as soon as possible if you’re concerned.
While the holidays may look different this year, it doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with the ones you love. Remember to always follow the guidelines regarding gathering and coronavirus according to your state. Make sure you have plenty of space for everyone to stay the recommended 6 feet apart and enforce a few simple ground rules like mask-wearing and sanitizing. Provide extra safety items to keep everyone safe and remember to keep the comfort of your guests in mind when staying overnight. With a few updates and easy changes, you can enjoy the holidays in a safe way without missing out on being with the people you love most.