The holidays are upon us and we have some tough decisions to make.

Health experts are encouraging us to stay home. I think that’s a smart idea. As of this writing, over 11 million people in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 250,000 have died. Chances are someone you know, perhaps someone close to you, has become ill with this virus. I, like so many others, have been touched by COVID; people who have become ill and continue to struggle to regain their health and two personal friends have died.

Healthcare providers, across the United States, are seeing increases in virus cases that spread across all age groups. Counties in Washington State are seeing a surge in new cases. Those counties that are worst hit include Spokane, King, Pierce, Yakima, and Snohomish.

To slow the spread, not only in Washington but in many states, safety restrictions have been put in place. If you live in WA please visit our COVID-19 Update page to find more.

Many of us were hoping to spend time with extended family and friends this holiday season. Unfortunately, with the increasing threat of infection no matter where we live it’s time to rethink our holiday plans.

Do we stay at home? Is my Skype updated? Should I download Zoom? Do we visit family? Do we invite friends over? Do we go to church? Is the church open?

Overwhelming isn’t it? Let’s see if we can make it a little easier.

For all of us, regardless of where we live, avoid gathering in groups, even with people we know. Getting together with friends and family that aren’t in our immediate household increases the chance to spread COVID-19. The more people we interact with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of becoming infected.

This is, absolutely, a difficult time for everyone. Let’s not make it worse by engaging in unsafe behaviors that jeopardize the health of those we care about. The safest, smartest, and the most respectful thing we can do, especially for anyone in a high-risk category, is to avoid gatherings and find different ways to celebrate.

What can you do to have a safe AND enjoyable Thanksgiving?

Gather virtually using a video program such as Skype or Zoom. Both services support hosting dozens of people to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with. Years ago, as my parents got to the point where they couldn’t travel, we would set up a Skype meeting with them and just let it run. They could visit with everyone at our house, eat dinner when they wanted, and we enjoyed their company as part of our festivities. Other creative ideas for a virtual meeting include Mozilla Hubs and Google Hangouts. BEST is hosting a virtual Thanksgiving dinner in Second Life (find out more here).

Start a group text session. This is something we use to do with family and friends that couldn’t make it to our holiday gathering. You can share photos, humor, and well wishes.

Set a holiday table even if you are alone. Avoid the temptation to heat a can of soup and sit in bed all day. Put on your holiday best. Set the table with the holiday-themed place settings. Setting a special place for yourself is a very self-indulgent thing to do and improves our mood. A good mood is essential to increased well-being and good health. Then take your dessert into the living room and enjoy the football game.

Call someone you know is alone this Thanksgiving. The best way to fight feeling isolated is to reach out to someone else. Many of us are alone this holiday season, especially as support groups have had to cancel their gatherings this year.

If you are determined to gather for the holidays use the following suggestions to make it safe for everyone.

Get a COVID-19 test to make sure you’re negative. It may take a few days to receive your test results so plan ahead. Stay at home and quarantine yourself and your household while waiting for the results.

Limit your gathering to five or fewer guests. The more people gathering in one place dramatically increases the risk of infection. Ask those you are considering inviting if they have had any symptoms – cough, trouble breathing, fever – in the past two weeks. If so, don’t invite them.

Make sure you have room for everyone to stay six feet apart. Also, set up the seating before guests arrive so that everyone can stay six feet apart at all times. Keep in mind that children love to hug, touch, and be close. They have trouble playing six feet apart, so wearing masks and not sharing toys or food may be the safest plan of action. Remember children under 2 should never wear masks.

Think about safer ways to gather that don’t involve sharing a meal. Bundle up and meet for a walk or other outdoor activity (and still stay 6 feet apart).

Have face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer available for guests. You can even make a guest gift that has the mask, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a treat. Place the items in a holiday gift bag and place the bags on a try with a fun sign by the door for guests to take before they come into the house.

Gather for less than two hours. Shorter periods of time give COVID-19 less chance to spread.

Going out to a gathering?

Get a COVID-19 test to make sure you’re negative. It may take a few days to receive your test results so plan ahead. Stay at home and quarantine yourself and your household while waiting for the results.

Find out how many people are expected. The more people the more likely you will get infected with the COVID-19 virus. The smaller the gathering, the better.

Bring your own mask and hand sanitizer. Don’t rely on your host to provide these essential protections.

Stay six feet apart from everyone. Do not hug, kiss, or make physical contact with other guests.

Stay two hours or less at the event. Shorter periods of time give COVID-19 less chance to spread.

While you’re together remember that everyone should wash their hands, wear face masks, avoid sharing food, and stay six feet apart. Consider having windows open so that there is adequate ventilation.

Please keep in mind that if you live in WA indoor social gatherings are not allowed unless all guests meet restriction requirements. Find out more on our COVID-19 Update page.

All of us at BEST know how much everyone wants to be with friends and family. Many of us have been isolated for months now. But it’s more important than ever that we rise to the challenge and act responsibly so that we can all enjoy many more years together.


Gloria's career as an independent nonprofit consultant, trainer, and writer spans over 30 years giving her lots to talk about. She has a deep passion for sustainability, both environmentally and organizationally. Enjoy her perspectives on community, development, and tales from her virtual world travels.


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