For centuries, spending time with family during the holidays has been a cherished tradition—one of many upended by COVID-19. After a stressful, isolating year, many people will see the holiday season as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones. But as the pandemic worsens, health experts advise modifying holiday plans to promote safety this year.
“Family comes first, but protecting loved ones is the true definition of caring,” said Alen CEO Andy Graham. “While there’s no absolute guarantee of safety, we can be better prepared to welcome family by taking key precautionary measures.”
So, what exactly should people do to celebrate the holidays? We know things will look different, but how and when is it safe to gather with friends and family? How can the risks be reduced? What changes need to be made to holiday traditions to protect loved ones?
We’ve pulled together some recommendations for ensuring your pandemic holidays stay safe this season. In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What makes indoor gatherings dangerous
- How to reduce risks, according to public health experts
- What a safe gathering looks like and how HEPA purifiers can help
According to this open letter to the World Health Organization from 239 international scientists, published in the journal Science:
“Viruses in aerosols can remain suspended in air for many seconds to hours, like smoke, and be inhaled. They are highly concentrated near an infected person, so they can infect people most easily in close proximity. But aerosols containing infectious virus can also travel more than [two meters] and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to superspreading events."
What are the COVID-19 risks at holiday gatherings?
Because coronavirus spreads via aerosol droplets mainly indoors, the most acute risks are found in shared indoor spaces occupied for prolonged periods. The more time you spend in that shared indoor space, and the closer your contact, the more risk you experience.
In fact, studies have demonstrated “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1-2 m (3-6 feet) from an infected individual... traveling tens of meters (30-60 feet), much greater than the scale of a typical room.”
In addition to mask wearing, social distancing, and hygiene efforts, researchers are urging public health officials to articulate the importance of moving activities outdoors, and improving indoor air using ventilation and HEPA filtration.
How can you reduce your risks, according to public health experts?
To truly celebrate safely, you’ll need to avoid travel and gatherings with those outside your household, but you can still enjoy many of the traditions you love. If you must gather, stay in small gatherings with others in your existing quarantine bubble. Stay vigilant! Family gatherings can easily become super-spreader events. Trusted relatives still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to gathering safely:
- Keep gatherings small. Ideally, enjoy celebrations at home with people who live in your household.
- If you will be gathering with anyone outside your household, get tested for COVID-19 and ensure that every guest is tested before attending the gathering.
- Talk to loved ones about the safety measures they’re taking before the gathering.
- Once you’ve all tested negative, make sure you all continue to avoid risks before getting together.
- Pets too! Avoid pet interaction with people outside your household.
- Make sure the celebration is well-stocked in advance with extra masks, tissues, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and individual use items like towels.
- Maintain at least six feet of distance, even with family and friends.
- Wear masks whenever possible when socializing.
- Encourage everybody to wash their hands frequently, or to use hand sanitizer.
- Remember that consuming alcohol can impair judgment, making it harder to practice safety measures effectively, so encourage everyone to consume moderately.
- Avoid potluck-style meals and avoid sharing any dishes, appetizers, dips, condiments, beverages, or communal desserts like pies.
- Sanitize frequently touched surfaces and shared items like serving utensils.
- Use touchless garbage cans.
- Limit foot traffic around places where food is being prepared and wear a mask while preparing food for anyone outside your household.
- Open doors and windows while indoors when possible to increase air circulation, and if possible, set the dwelling’s central air to circulate continuously.
- Eat and socialize outdoors if the weather permits. You can gather around a fire or heater if it’s cold out, or wrap up in blankets or winter layers.
- Shop online, and watch sports events, movies, and parades from home.
- Use a True HEPA (H13) air purifier for shared indoor spaces (keep reading for details).
“Air cleaning and filtration can help reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses," according to the EPA. "When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, filtration can be part of a plan to protect people indoors.”
Three things we know about COVID-19 infection:
It’s airborne. While hand washing and surface disinfection were the early focus, we now know the virus is primarily transmitted by breathing air shared with those who are infected.
Masks and distancing, while reducing risk, will not fully protect against virus transmission indoors, because the longer a group is together in a shared space, the greater the risk.
Removing virus particles quickly from indoor shared air spaces, without relying upon constant mask-wearing, is one reason why the CDC and EPA recommend in-room air purifiers.
How can an air purifier help with COVID-19? Can HEPA purifiers help gatherings stay safe?
Alen True HEPA (H13) air filtration traps virus particles! So that means a purifier with ample capacity for the space where you plan to gather can help remove the virus from the air.
Here are some of our tips for utilizing an air purifier’s cleaning power to protect against spreading the virus at a gathering:
- Run your home’s HVAC continuously to improve air movement.
- Be sure to use an air purifier that’s right for the size of your indoor space.
- Run your air purifier at full speed for at least 24 hours before the gathering.
Alen's BreatheSmart 75i True HEPA Purifier: Perfect for Holiday Gatherings
With its ultra-high clean air delivery rate (CADR) of 350 cubic feet per minute (CFM), the 75i is engineered to move air upward and outward with force for full-room air cleaning. Even better, True HEPA (H13) filtration removes 99.99% of particles down to 0.1 microns, including aerosolized viruses like COVID-19.
50% quieter than purifiers with similar airflow, it’s the quietest large HEPA air purifier on the market.
- Best-in-class energy efficiency by capacity
- ENERGY STAR Certified & designed for 24/7 operation
- Exclusive lifetime warranty & world-class in-house support
- Long-lasting medical-grade True HEPA filters provide up to 15 months of protection
Proven Virus Protection
Independent lab tests show the 75i effectively removes more than 99% of virus particles from a 1,050 SqFt test chamber within 20 minutes. Why do we insist on third-party lab testing our filters against viruses? Because we aren’t just air quality experts; we’re parents, too.
Stay Vigilant & Stay Healthy
We’re all longing for life to get back to normal, so it’s natural to feel tempted to stop being careful, to relax precautions, to cut corners here and there.
But we must stay as careful as ever. Avoid large groups of people and don’t attend large indoor gatherings. Stay home whenever you can. Practice social distancing when around others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands with soap and water.
Prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect your loved ones and yourself. Stay safe and healthy this holiday season. From everyone at Alen, we wish you good health, joyful holidays, and a happy new year!