11 Tips for Healthy Holiday Gatherings


Take these guidelines into account and use these tips for celebrating more safely in the Time of COVID-19.

Edgar Sanchez, MD – Infectious Disease, Orlando Health

“With the upcoming holidays, one should be mindful that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and spread among family members is common,” says Dr. Edgar Sanchez, MD — Infectious Disease with Orlando Health Medical Group Infectious Disease. “Family gatherings are one place that people may put their guard down, but everyone needs to realize that infected family members that can spread the disease may be asymptomatic.  

According to Dr. Sanchez, the guest list should not include “anyone who has COVID-19, who has been exposed to COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19,” and those with a condition that puts them at high risk of complications should “strongly consider not attending gatherings with people who do not live in their household. 

Whether you make our simple feast for four or order take-out from a local restaurant, keep these tips in mind for a safer celebration.

Keep your gathering small and outdoors, if possible. Most of us are now spending time in pods with people who a making similar choices following social distancing norms and being just as careful as you are. If you’re seating guests, space tables at least 6 feet apart, and seat families or podmates together. Offer alcohol-based hand sanitizer as guests arrive.  

Walk through your set-up ahead of time. Make sure you are not over-inviting, and have plenty of space to keep families/podmates at least 6 feet apart. Plot it out ahead of time. 

Don’t worry about being bossy. Kindly communicate the rules for guests via email or text before they arrive. Then kindly reinforce, if necessary. And don’t take it personally if a friend declines – they may just not be ready for a social gathering.  

Yes, wear a face mask. Ask guests to wear a face covering until they are seated. And if they go to the bathroom, the mask goes on, with hand sanitizer at the door. Put a little note on the bathroom door that asks guest to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, kindly close the lid before flushing, and wipe the door handle on the way out. Supply paper towels for drying hands.  

Think individual servings. No big charcuterie boards, bowls of nuts or platters of nachos. You can serve from a big bowl, but everyone uses their own flatware. Avoid messy finger foods since the virus can spread if you touch a contaminated surface and put your hands to your mouth. 

Avoid touching the same surfaces. You don’t want everyone’s hands to touch flatware or anything they have to dig through. Wrap flatware in napkins for guests to pick up. Have dishes and glasses already on the table, along with sanitizer to use before eating. 

Salt and pepper. If you want to have on the table, give each guest a set of small ramekins or mini salt and pepper shakers. 

Drinks. Have guests bring their own. You normally might not consider it, but it really is the safest way.  

Serving the food. Have one person serve the food, wearing a mask. Family style works well at a family or pod table, or do a retro TV dinner plate or even a fun box lunch or supper.  

Dessert for one. Big cakes and pies are out. Go for cupcakes or individual ramekins of fruit or other desserts. Store-bought ice-cream sandwiches or popsicles are fun endings.  

Simple clean-up. If you don’t want to use disposables, put a big bin for dirty dishes and flatware that the hosts can pick up and load into the dishwasher (ideally wearing kitchen gloves).