GLOUCESTER — Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Public Health Director Karin Caroll wish to share health and safety guidance for residents as they finalize plans and prepare for their holiday celebrations this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveling increases one’s potential to be exposed to COVID-19 and of potentially spreading it to others. Staying home and observing the holidays with those in your household or hosting a virtual celebration are the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
It is important to note that small gatherings are also contributing to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the CDC.
In addition to all of Gov. Charlie Baker’s orders, the Board of Health wishes to share the following recommendations based on their discussion at their last meeting:
- Despite the community doing very well on a number of key COVID-19 metrics compared to similar communities, the community must remain vigilant, especially when it comes to behavior at home.
- People should continue to wear masks, social distance and most importantly, avoid indoor social gatherings in private homes where preventative measures are not taken.
- Testing should be provided for as many people as possible with a special attention given to access for high risk populations in the community.
- Everyone who can get the vaccine should when it is available.
“Just like at Thanksgiving, we are strongly encouraging residents to limit their in-person gatherings and avoid traveling during the remainder of the holiday season,” Mayor Romeo Theken said. “Cases are continuing to rise around the state and it’s important that we all continue to take the necessary steps to prevent any further spread of the disease. This is an essential way to ensure that we all have a safe and healthy holiday.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), residents should also:
- Limit in-person celebrations to household members only
- Postpone or cancel travel this holiday season. If you do choose to travel, be aware of and comply with Massachusetts travel order requirements. Note: Hawaii is currently the only state where people can travel to Massachusetts without being required to fill out the state’s travel form and quarantine and/or produce a negative COVID-19 test result.
- Follow the current state gathering size limits and sector-specific workplace safety standards.
“Earlier this week, all communities in Massachusetts will revert back to Phase 3, Step 1 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase approach for reopening,” Carroll said. “This change include revised guidance on gathering size limits to only 10 people for indoor gatherings at private residences. We hope you with review and consider lower-risk alternatives, such as virtual events, as you plan your celebrations this holiday season.”
Those who still choose to travel or host a small gathering are urged to consider lower risk alternatives and review the precautions they can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
DPH recommends several lower risk activities for celebrating the holidays this year, such as:
Lower-Risk Celebrations and Activities
- Limit in-person holiday gatherings to only people you live with.
- Host a virtual holiday dinner with extended family or friends.
- Prepare foods for family and neighbors and deliver them in a contactless way.
- Virtually attend your traditional holiday activities, such as a visit with Santa.
- Consider virtual caroling or reciting. Provide a link to your virtual caroling to the people you want to sing to.
- View holiday lights from your car with those you live with.
Higher-Risk Celebrations and Activities
- Any time you gather with others outside of your household, you increase the risk of contracting or spreading illness. All residents are discouraged from gathering with those from outside their household. Gatherings in Massachusetts are subject to gathering size limits.
- You are risking your health and the health of others if you host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household:
- has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not completed the isolation period;
- has symptoms of COVID-19;
- is waiting for COVID-19 viral test results;
- may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
- is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions.
- If in-person caroling or reciting, stay more than 25 feet from the people you are reciting or singing for and wear a mask. Remain outdoors while caroling.
- If you visit Santa Claus in person, wear a mask, stay six feet from Santa and others while in line, and make a reservation for your visit where available.
- If viewing holiday lights outdoors, take a one-way walk with those you live with and maintain distance from others.
Other Recommendations and Guidance
- Always wear your mask and watch your distance. (Remove your mask only for eating and drinking.)
- Do not share food, drink, or any utensils, including serving utensils.
- Seat people with plenty of space (at least six feet) from one another while dining.
- Consider seating people at smaller tables in multiple rooms instead of around a large family table.
- Improve ventilation by opening windows and doors.
- If setting up outdoor seating under a tent, ensure guests are still seated with physical distancing in mind. Enclosed 4-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents and should be considered indoor spaces (check also fire codes for heating tents).
- If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put down the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12 inches of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.
In addition to observing store capacity limits, wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, and following directions and place markings at stores, DPH asks residents to consider the following risks when holiday shopping:
- Higher Risk: High-risk activities include in-person promotions or holiday activities that encourage large crowds. When shopping with a non-household member, make sure to wear a mask, including while driving together.
- Medium Risk: If you choose to shop in-person, wear your mask and maintain six feet of distance from others. Try to shop at off-peak times when there are fewer shoppers.
- Lower Risk: Shop online. Many retailers have options for online shopping and in-person, contactless curbside or drive-up pick-up. If using in-person pick-up, you and the retail personnel should wear masks.