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Happy COVID-19 Holiday Season: The Latest Guidelines

September 29, 2020

The safest holiday celebrations this fall and winter, says the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, are outdoors. Thanks, but that won't help Connecticut residents and people across the Northeast unless extreme jet-stream behavior traps cold Arctic air to the north and we celebrate New Year's in flip-flops and shorts. More traditional winter weather, of course, assumes indoor gatherings of family and friends. Connecticut currently recommends capping indoor celebrations at 25 people. Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated or fully enclosed indoor spaces, says the CDC. Open windows to increase ventilation, keeping mindful of the safety and comfort of your guests. When in doubt, wear a mask. "Wearing a mask is the most inexpensive way to reduce spread of the virus," says Dr. Faiqa Cheema, a Hartford HealthCare infectious disease specialist. "It prevents your respiratory droplets and  saliva from remaining contained, thereby protecting others around you." Other tips from the CDC:

  • Restrict your invitation list to people from your local area whenever possible.
  • Keep the party small.
  • Make sure your guests are aware of COVID-19 safety guidelines. Encourage them to bring their own masks, hand sanitizer and tissues.
  • If you're inviting people from outside your household, consider asking them to avoid contact with others outside their own households for 14 days before the party.

Religious Gatherings

The state currently recommends indoor religious services at 50 percent capacity, capped at 200 people.


Even before COVID-19, American shoppers were moving away from malls for the convenience of online shopping. The online crush could even greater this year. Major retailers are encouraging an earlier start to holiday shopping, with some offering major sales days in October and others extending Black Friday deals.


Traveling during the holiday season only increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. If you're considering air travel, the greatest threat of getting sick is when you're not on the plane. “Being on a plane itself does not increase your risk," says Dr. Cheema. “We know that because the airlines follow high-quality standards for purification of the air and the filters they use are like those we use in the hospital for patients who have COVID-19 and are placed in isolation.” If you must travel, know what you're getting into: Google Maps now offers users COVID-19 levels in specific areas. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC says. “If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.”

High-Risk Activities

Here are some activities CDC considers high-risk during the pandemic:
  • Shopping at crowded stores.
  • Crowded parades. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York will be a television-only event this year. Parades across the state have been canceled. The Essex Steam Train's North Pole Express and Santa Special Elf Academy Train Excursions have been postponed until 2021.
  • Participating in, or being a spectator at, a crowded race or other sports event. The Manchester Road Race, a Thanksgiving tradition, has canceled this year's race. Instead, it's sponsoring a virtual event.
  • Large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can affect judgement and increase risky behavior.