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CDC recommends changes to holiday celebrations to curb virus

New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the upcoming holiday season warns that hosts and attendees at holiday celebrations will need to take steps to limit the risk of contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus. 

Virtual gatherings or those that involve one's immediate household are low-risk, the agency said in a posting Monday. If people do gather in person for Christmas and other holidays, the CDC recommends doing so outdoors, keeping groups small, using measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, and considering local virus conditions as well as where attendees are coming from.

Instead of communal, potluck-style food, hosts can ask attendees to bring their own, the CDC said. Cutting down on shared items by having one person serve, and getting single-use plates and condiments, are also recommended, according to the CDC.

Traditional celebrations like Halloween trick-or-treating, large indoor Día de los Muertos gatherings, crowded Thanksgiving parades and Black Friday shopping sprees could spread the virus and should be avoided, according to the guidance. The CDC recommends alternatives such as virtual Halloween costume contests, holding a small dinner for household members and shopping online.

Trick-or-treating can also be modified to reduce risk, the agency said. It recommends a "scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search" with members of one's immediate household as a lower-risk option. Another possibility, though it carries moderate risk, is "one-way" trick-or-treating, with separately wrapped treats picked up by families at a safe distance, like at the edge of a driveway or yard.

The National Confectioners Association, a trade group that represents candy-makers, said in a statement that the new CDC guidance "reinforces that Halloween is happening and provides inspiration for creative and safe approaches to celebrating the holiday."

The organization also provided a statement from Stephen Ostroff, a former CDC and Food and Drug Administration official who has been working with the industry group "to help Americans take the guesswork out of Halloween."

"Halloween is traditionally an outdoor holiday and the one time of the year when kids want to wear a mask," Ostroff said. "This is fully consistent with the CDC safety guidelines, and with the appropriate physical distancing, trick-or-treating can safely happen."

Those with a confirmed COVID-19 case or for whom illness is suspected shouldn't host or attend holiday gatherings, while people who are at-risk should avoid in-person gatherings or try to mitigate risk at those events, the agency said.

 

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