Gathering with friends and family is an annual tradition over the holidays, but it is one we might want to skip due to the surging coronovirus, according to health experts and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

With just a few weeks until Christmas arrives, the idea family get-togethers is creating more anxiety this year. As colder weather grips a good portion of the country, people are forced to move inside, creating a perfect storm for the virus to spread. As many families are making plans for holiday celebrations, federal health officials are hoping Americans will be practicing stringent social distancing and staying home as much as possible.

Although guidelines were in place, many people still traveled by air and public transportation to visit loved ones. Even before the Thanksgiving surge begins, daily cases of the virus are higher than ever before and hospitals are beginning to be overwhelmed by the number of patients with Covid-19.  The last thing we need is to add to those numbers.

Given the current ever-changing situation of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control recommends celebrating responsibly . During this unusual year, holiday gatherings should be limited to immediate households and those within the household's COVID bubble. Guidelines also recommend that for those hosting a celebration involving people outside your immediate family, masks are to be worn in the house at all times, except for eating of course. Also, individuals from out of state should check in two weeks prior to the holiday's original date and quarantine in advance to be sure that they test negative for the virus.

There should be no more than ten people at a gathering. However, if you do have more than ten people, try to keep groups of family members in individual rooms in the house. Weather permitting,  hosts should try to keep the party outside since being near others in close quarters increases the chance of spreading the virus. Lastly,those invited to holiday celebrations, should wash their hands frequently and often when in the guest's home. Hosts should continually clean and disinfect surfaces and provide sanitizing wipes throughout the house.

Just as we did over Thanksgiving, my large family will not be gathering for Christmas. My parents are in their eighties and we have made the decision to protect them and each other by skipping our big holiday celebration.  However, we plan to do a big Zoom call on Christmas day with the family.

Following these steps are ways to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in households across New Jersey and throughout the nation. While these measures may seem extreme, they are there so that everyone can have safe and happy holidays for years to come. 

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