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How To Prep Your Home For The Holidays During COVID-19…

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work, play, and entertain for the Holidays. Social distancing makes it challenging to hang out with friends and neighbors or have a family dinner celebration. But preparing your home could ensure COVID-free celebrations.

And, while you’re taking measures to be safe from COVID and the flu, you should also be aware of other hazards that can ruin the Holidays, and take standard precautions, so they don’t spoil the fun.

As always, we recommend making sure your home is covered by homeowner’s insurance in the event something unexpected, like a fire in the fireplace or from a candle, interrupts the festivities.

In this article:

Holiday Celebration Red Flags 

Disclaimer: While the Holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends, with COVID being a genuine threat to your health, as well as your friends and relatives, you should feel justified in taking a firm stance against any unsafe behavior that may present itself during each step in the preparation of your Holiday celebration. If you can’t confirm any “red flags” and are hesitant to entertain guests in your home, you can instead celebrate via “Zoom.”  For friends and family who may not be willing to comply with your wishes, Zoom just might be the best alternative to entertaining in person. 

Before opening your doors to guests this Holiday season, ask yourself these questions and get the answers you need to keep yourself safe.

  1. Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past but has not yet met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others?

According to the CDC, you can be around others if you can answer yes to all three statements:

  • It has been ten days since your symptoms first appeared 
  • You haven’t had a fever for that past 24 hours, and haven’t taken fever-reducing medications 
  • Any other signs of COVID-19 that you experienced are improving (not including loss of taste or smell, which can linger for weeks)

2.   Does anyone in your family have symptoms of COVID-19? If so, they should avoid  
      attending to ensure they won’t potentially spread the disease further.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat

3.   Are any attendees waiting for COVID-19 viral test results? If so, it’s best to wait and be safe at home rather than sorry at your relatives’.

According to Medical News Today, it can take from a few hours to several days to receive your test results. The length of time to hear back about your COVID-19 test depends on where it took place and the type of test you had.  On that note, it is best to use an FDA-approved test based on your primary care provider’s recommendation.

4.   Have any of your attendees potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?

If so, they should do their best to quarantine in advance of any festivities to ensure they aren’t carrying the virus.

5.   Are any of your attendees at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

Some people are at greater risk than others. This includes people with underlying health conditions, such as lung or heart disease, middle-aged and older adults, people who are overweight or have diabetes, people of any age with cancer or certain blood disorders, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic liver or kidney disease. Although it may be difficult to tell people with these health conditions to stay home this year, it is best for all involved. If you choose to have them attend, take additional steps to keep safe while entertaining, like wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.

If you’re planning a holiday party, but you’re not sure how many guests you should invite to stay six feet apart if necessary, a conservative estimate is 113 square feet per visitor/visitors or roughly the area of a six square foot circle).  For example, if Ryan from Ohio, Jill from Texas, you,  Tim, and Beth, who all live together in Iowa, attend your party, you should try to have at least 452 square feet of space for your party. 

How Are Your Guests Arriving? 

If Ryan is flying in from Ohio and Jill is taking a bus from Texas for the Holidays, there’s a good chance they weren’t able to social distance, as flying and riding a bus usually means strangers jam-packed in close quarters. Even airports and bus stations can be crowded during the Holidays. Unfortunately, there’s also the possibility they may have been exposed to COVID.  

If all of your family is planning to attend, then maybe a relative that lives an equal distance from everyone is a better option to host the party than at your house. By celebrating at a central location and allowing guests to drive, you cut the exposure of everyone to the virus, keeping family members safe. 

Having Tough Conversations 

The thought of getting COVID may not worry your aunt as much as it concerns you. Everyone thinks differently about the coronavirus, and it’s essential to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings. Your Uncle Joe may have a heart condition, so he chooses not to attend and instead will celebrate via Zoom call. But your brother is young and healthy and thinks the whole COVID thing is blown out of context. 

While everyone has a right to their opinion, you have to think about the people you live with and make the best decisions for you and your family first. If conflict occurs with one of your guests who thinks you are too cautious, you should take a calm approach:

  • Have a conversation about the subject, rather than reprimanding or lecturing
  • Listen to their opinion with an open mind and without judgment
  • Be empathic
  • Quote sources and statistics, offering websites or articles you read
  • Ask questions and answer with compassion.

The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and playing the blame game will only create further divisions between you and your loved ones. After all, it’s not your job to change the minds of everyone you know; it’s only to ensure the Holiday gathering is as safe as possible. Here are some examples of questions you might run into:

Tough Questions Diplomatic (but firm) Answers Keep In Mind:
I’m young, and COVID-19 isn’t going to affect me – why do we have to follow all of these rules? I understand how you feel (name), but this isn’t just about you and me – it’s about keeping everyone at the party safe. When able, use anecdotes and stories rather than numbers – by associating your concerns with a mutual acquaintance or family member, you help whomever you’re talking with better connect with your concerns. 
X media source said that worries about the coronavirus are over-blown – why do I have to follow your rules? X media source may have reported the message, but many other outlets have refuted X media’s opinion. Have you had a chance to read/see the report from A, B, or C’s news station/website? I’d be happy to share them so we can work together on making sure everyone is safe during the holidays. Not everyone listens to or reads the same news outlets. It’s best to have several sources available to draw on for information.
COVID is a made-up problem by people who want to stall the economy. Why should I have to social distance when the pandemic isn’t real? I’ve considered how the pandemic has affected our economy, and I think our government could do a better job sometimes as well. None of us have all the information, and there is no perfect solution. If social distancing means even the chance of keeping our family safer though, it’s something I want for our holiday, and I hope you can support me on that.  By calmly meeting your guest where they are ideologically and offering your understanding, you can start to resolve the conflict as your guest begins to feel less defensive.
Also consider how whomever you’re talking with will receive what you’re saying – you may not be the best person to deliver the message, and it may be better to ask someone they trust to voice your concerns.
COVID-19 is just like the flu – I never got the flu when I wasn’t wearing a mask, so why do I have to wear a mask now? Scientists and doctors everywhere agree that wearing a mask can make you safer, particularly given that COVID is more dangerous than the flu. And besides, who does wearing a mask hurt? I always say, better safe than sorry. If your guest is cherry-picking data and/or only focusing on milder cases of COVID, it’s important to emphasize the consensus in the scientific community around the subject, and to leave no doubt around the facts on this subject.
All of these safety steps just won’t work for me – if you keep telling me to do these things, I won’t be able to attend your holiday party this year. Can you make an exception? It sounds like you’re unwilling to distance or wear a mask, and I’m sad to hear that. I’ve shared my reasons for doing so, and I don’t want to try to convince you further. It’s okay to give up and move on from this person’s participation in your activity. Remember what they teach in AA: Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and know the difference between the two.

So Your Guests Have Arrived – What’s The Best Way To Keep Them Safe? 

Even with precautions like masks and social distancing in place, there is still no guarantee you, a friend, or family member won’t contract COVID-19. That’s why it’s best to take all the precautions you can to ensure your guests don’t spread or contract the disease. 

For this, we put together the best options for your indoor or outdoor holiday celebration.

Recommendations for outdoor celebrations

If possible and weather permitting, outdoor celebrations can be beautiful, fun, and out of the ordinary while also promoting social distancing. If the weather is a bit chilly, you may want to consider providing adequate heating, which can range from a fire pit or outdoor heater to a large bonfire under the stars.  

And, although you are outside, ask your guests to wear masks to keep you and your other party members safe. Then, to keep your guests entertained, you may also want to introduce some fun activities, which may include:

  • Put up an inflatable movie screen or string an old sheet between two trees to watch a movie.
  • Decorate ornaments or make wreaths that everyone can take home in remembrance of this year’s Holiday festivities.
  • Build a bonfire and provide all the essentials for s’mores. Keep hot chocolate and beverages flowing!
  • If you invite children, have chalk or washable paints on-hand for hours of fun.
  • Play “bowl in the dark” with filled water bottles and a beachball.
  • Dance.
  • Take lots of photos to share all around.
  • Play board games.

Recommendations for Indoor Celebrations  

If outdoor celebrations aren’t possible, try to limit contact when and where possible, encourage guests to limit contact to common surfaces (e.g. doorknobs), and promote ventilation by opening a window and/or using an air purifier. It’s not a guarantee to prevent spread, but it can help!

And, while you’re inside, ask your guests to wear masks to keep you and other family members safe. You may also want to put some of these practices in place.

  • Create boundaries for how many guests can occupy an individual room – consider rotating guests between different rooms in the house, much like speed-dating to ensure people can communicate while also helping them stay distanced from each other. 
  • Have hygienic materials, like hand cleaner readily available, and/or encourage attendees to bring them hand sanitizer, tissues, and extra masks.
  • Offer some fun indoor activities that you can do at a distance, and promote safety for kids, like:
    • Making their own holiday masks with holiday fabric + string – let guests pick their own themes!
    • Bake and decorate cookies with a prize for the very best, funniest, prettiest, etc.
    • Play board games, but keep tables at least six feet apart. You may even consider separating the table into sections with plexiglass. And – everyone wears a mask!
    • Make pizzas
    • Watch a movie on the big screen TV, but make sure people sit apart from one another. 

Eating space can be limited indoors. Even so, you will want to continue to keep individuals/groups separate while eating, so consider dividing the table into sections with clear plexiglass. If you do so, have one server in the kitchen dishing out all of the food, and forget about having a buffet or self-serve stations. 

Don’t Just Protect Your Guests – Protect Your House! 

In addition to protecting your friends and family from each other and COVID-19, you will also want to take steps necessary to ensure that your house is protected from your guests, intruders, damage, and other unexpected issues that arise. To limit potential homeowners insurance claims, keep an eye out for:

Theft.
Before guests arrive, install outdoor lights to discourage porch pirates. If you travel, ask a neighbor to watch your home, and don’t leave gifts and other valuables in plain sight.

Injuries and property damage.
Rowdy partiers or someone slipping on ice can ruin the party and cost you thousands. Limit the use of alcohol, have plenty of food, cut people off if needed, and keep your sidewalks salted and free of snow.

Fires.
Make sure you decorate with care, use electric candles instead of real candles, water your Christmas tree, cook carefully, and be alert to the fire in your fireplace.

Remember these mishaps are not covered by homeowners insurance:

  • Sewer backup 
  • Damage caused by pets 
  • Theft of valuables from inside your car (homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover items in your car – make sure to move all valuables inside your house)

After The Party Ends 

Your party was a roaring success, and all of your guests left happy. They followed your suggestions for social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands or using sanitizer. You danced and celebrated the Holidays, even amid the pandemic. 

Now, after the party ends, it’s time to clean up and/or quarantine yourself if you engaged in any high-risk activities, or if you find out later that one of the attendees tested positive for COVID-19. In fact, if you or any family members living in your home have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus, find the nearest testing area and get tested. 

Outro 

Maybe the holidays were different and a bit more stressful than usual this year, but with the right preparations, you and your guests will be able to celebrate together AND stay safe. Because you knew the symptoms, had the hard conversations and protected both your guests and our home, you can reconnect with family and friends and bring in the new year, re-energized, and in perfect health.


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