As residents start to think and plan for the upcoming holidays, Montgomery County officials are urging residents to plan for celebrations with consideration for family and friends during this time of COVID-19.
“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 family, 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. The United States is averaging more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases daily and Montgomery County’s three-day average for new cases is 209. No age group is immune and as young people get COVID-19, infections can rise among older adults such as grandparents and parents.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that young adults are driving some coronavirus infections in the U.S. and are likely spreading the virus to older, more vulnerable populations. Infections in older people are much more likely to lead to hospitalizations and even death.
As residents are making Thanksgiving plans, County health officials urge 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 you are gathering in person, consider asking everyone who is attending to get tested 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—in effect consider quarantining. The Maryland Department of Health’s website includes information on what to do while waiting for test results. Montgomery County offers more than a dozen 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 important information and help to keep everyone safe.
Montgomery County, as well as many other areas of the country, are 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 as you plan for 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 — everyone’s habits have an impact on everyone 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 being 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 hasn’t 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.
Celebrate outdoors if possible.
If you choose to host celebrations in-person, try to keep the group as small as possible and remember to practice social distancing and ask everyone to wear masks except when eating.
If you cannot avoid celebrating indoors, make sure there is proper ventilation, limit the number of attendees and try to celebrate with people from your area.
Get your flu vaccine. To keep children and other family members safe during a gathering, it is recommended that everyone receive a flu vaccination.
For the latest COVID-19 updates, visit the County’s COVID-19 website as well as the County’s data dashboard or follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCountyMD.