With COVID-19 numbers rapidly rising across the United States and the holidays quickly approaching, it makes sense that people with diabetes and their families want to be as safe as possible to prevent the spread of the disease. The best advice, amid the second wave of this pandemic, is to hunker down, shelter-in-place, and cancel all holiday plans with people outside of your immediate family and household. That being said, entering month nine of social isolation, loneliness, and quarantine is wreaking havoc on our nation’s mental health, and the thought of spending the holidays alone may be too much to bear. So, how can you have a safer holiday, while still connecting with your loved ones? Read more to find out how.  

Check local statistics  

Before making any holiday plans, know the rate of transmission, average daily infection rates, and hospital capacity in your region. Knowing the percentage of positive cases in your area is critical, too. This percentage gives an indication of how widespread infection is where you live. The higher the percent positive is, the more concerning viral spread is. As a general rule of thumb, the percent positive being “too high” is 5%. Some communities around the United States are seeing percent positive rates of  30% 

Follow local guidance 

Always follow local and state guidance before thinking about making any holiday plans. This guidance will often come from your local mayor and the Governor of your state. For instance, California has closed indoor gyms and indoor dining, while Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has closed all schools and universities to in-person learning, requiring remote learning only. Denver, Colorado has a 10 p.m. curfew and no more than 2 households may congregate at any time. Recommendations and restrictions vary from city to city and state to state and can change rapidly.  

Stick with your household, if possible 

The safest bet for celebrating the holidays is 2020, which is, unfortunately, staying home. Celebrating the holidays with long-distance relatives via a Zoom dinner or Skype call is safest for everyone. That way, you’re still keeping in touch and catching up while keeping others safe and healthy. You can watch parades or movies at home, or gather everyone in your household together to play board games or go on a hike outside together. Practicing gratitude this holiday season is especially important; you can write down 3 things you are thankful for, and everyone can share what they wrote. If you’d like to help out others, you can drop off non-perishable foods at a local food bank, or prepare a meal or bake some cookies and leave it on an elderly relative’s or neighbor’s porch for them. Get creative!  

Ways to be safer if you attend a gathering 

If you’re attending a holiday gathering, try to only attend get-togethers that are completely outside with a small number of households and a small number of people. Ideally, everyone at the gathering should quarantine and/or get a rapid COVID test before getting together. Wear your mask whenever you’re not actively eating or drinking. It is also recommended that you bring your own food, and use single-use condiments as well as disposable utensils. As always, wash your hands frequently and do not touch your face.  

Ways to be safe if you host a gathering 

If you feel that you must host people who do not live with you this holiday season, please ask all attendees to quarantine, and if COVID tests are readily available, to test before coming to your home. Limit the number of guests and the number of households you invite, and opt for an outdoor gathering whenever possible. If you’re having guests inside your home, make sure it’s well ventilated, and keep the windows open. Have guests bring their own food and utensils, and discourage anyone from attending if they have any classic COVID symptoms or have recently been exposed to the virus. Have guests wear masks whenever they’re not eating or drinking, and space people out, so they’re at least 6 feet apart whenever possible. Wipe down and disinfect all frequently-used surfaces, including the kitchen and bathrooms.  

Ways to be safer if you must travel  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traveling during the holidays does increase your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. But if you must travel, here are the basics:  

  • Always remember to wear a mask (an N95 with a cloth mask over the top of it with a face shield is best) 
  •  Physically distance yourself 6 or more feet from anyone outside of your household 
  •  Wash your hands frequently (using hand sanitizer when a bathroom is not nearby) 
  •  Avoid touching your face  
  • Wipe down (with antibacterial wipes) any frequently touched public surfaces, such as seats on trains and planes, bins at security in the airport, tray tables, and armrests 
  • Get a flu shot this year  
  • Travel during the week, to avoid the weekend crowd  
  • Travel in the morning, when airplanes are cleanest (after having been thoroughly cleaned after the last flight the evening before) 
  • Opt for a window seat, as that’s been proven to be a safer spot on trains and planes than the aisle or middle seats  
  • As a person with diabetes, you are able to pre-board all flights. It’s highly recommended that you pre-board your flight, so you can find your way to your seat and settle in without having to walk past everyone else first  
  • Do not take your mask off during the flight unless you need to treat a low blood sugar  

Better safe than sorry  

The 2020 holidays will definitely look a bit different this year, but with COVID raging across the nation, and with diabetes being in the high-risk category for severe reactions to the virus, it is better to play it safe than contract COVID-19 and become very ill. Taking these precautions will ensure that you have a safe and healthy holiday season, and most importantly, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming ill.