November 18, 2020

County Officials Offer Guidance on Celebrating Upcoming Holidays Safely

Montgomery County officials are urging residents to plan for upcoming holiday celebrations with consideration for family and friends as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to increase around Maryland and throughout the nation.

“We understand that everyone is growing weary of the pandemic and the associated restrictions, but we have worked hard as a community to address COVID-19 and we need to continue to be vigilant in order to keep our families, friends and others safe,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

When planning to host or attend a holiday celebration, residents need to consider the current COVID-19 levels of the community. Areas throughout the United States are experiencing a rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases. No age group is immune and as young people get COVID-19, infections can rise among older adults including grandparents and parents. Infections in older people are much more likely to lead to hospitalizations and even death.

For Thanksgiving plans, County health officials are urging everyone to consider the most vulnerable family members when making plans. Celebrating virtually or with members of your own households pose the lowest risk for spread.
  • Health officials strongly recommend that residents not hold large family gatherings. Any type of gathering must include mask wearing by everyone, maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet and regular hand washing and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces.
  • Reconsider travel during the holiday season and consider holding virtual gatherings or small gatherings at home. If gathering in person, consider asking everyone who is attending to get tested for COVID-19 beforehand and to limit activities outside of essential things, such as work and grocery shopping, in order to significantly minimize exposure to others before the celebration.
  • The Maryland Department of Health’s website includes information on what to do while waiting for test results. Montgomery County offers dozens of testing clinics weekly. They are free and no doctor’s order is needed. Since there are people with COVID-19 who do not show symptoms, knowing that you are not positive for COVID-19 is one way to provide family and friends with important information and keep everyone safe.
  • Montgomery County, as well as many other areas of the country, is experiencing increased numbers of new cases and testing is important to track community spread.
  • In-person gatherings pose varying levels of risk.
  • Things to consider in planning celebrations:
    • What is the level of COVID-19 in the community where you will be celebrating?
    • Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as open doors and windows.
    • Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
    • How many people are attending? The size of a gathering should be determined based on how to reduce or limit contact between attendees and the risk of spread.
    • Where are people traveling from? What are the levels of COVID-19 in those communities?
    • Are guests practicing social distancing and mask wearing in their day-to-day lives? Each person’s habits have an impact on everyone at the gathering, especially older adults who may be especially vulnerable to serious complications from COVID-19.
    • Gatherings with strong preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing, in place pose less risk than gatherings where few or no preventive measures are implemented. Remind guests to wear masks.
    • Be sure that guests understand expectations and agree to those expectations.
  • Do not attend or host a gathering if you or anyone in your household:
    • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others.
    • Has symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Is waiting for COVID-19 test results.
    • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
    • Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.