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  4.  » The Weekly Pulse: COVID-19: Best Practices to Be Safe During The Holidays

The holidays are officially upon us which traditionally has meant gathering with family and friends to celebrate achieved milestones. While we, as a city and a nation, have overcome many challenges this year we remain far from being out of the woods. Regretfully, it may be safest to skip the elaborate holiday gatherings this year, if possible, according to public-health experts. Amid the rising Coronavirus infection rates across the country, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned in earlier briefings that the coming season wouldn’t be “business as usual.” He urged New Yorkers to avoid traveling for the holidays stating, “We’re going to feel that pull to do what we do in a normal year, but it’s not a normal year.”

New measures went into effect on November 13, 2020 placing new restrictions on three key sources of COVID spread in New York. The new measures mandated that any establishment licensed by State Liquor Authority, including bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys, must close their indoor areas at 10 p.m. and only curbside food pickups would be allowed afterwards. Secondly, gyms must also close at 10 p.m. Small social gatherings in private homes have been identified as the third ‘great spreader’ Governor Cuomo said. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has cited parts of Staten Island as being particularly problematic. He said he would transition a new geographic area of that borough to a yellow zone, which mandates randomized weekly school testing of students and staff but allows nonessential businesses to remain open. More than 10 million COVID-19 infection cases have been confirmed in the United States and hospitalizations are nearing a new record. 

We understand the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Celebrating holidays alone or with your immediate household members sounds dreary. It is highly recommended that gatherings during the upcoming holidays be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe. This pandemic offers opportunities to make this a holiday season to remember in a new, different, and safe ways. Here are some tips:

  • Traveling – Be vigilant about who knows your travel plans. It is important to keep your personal travel information off social media. It is best not to disclose when you’re going away or you are expected to return. Keep these details to yourself. 
  • Family Gatherings – follow CDC tips for hosting gatherings. If you are attending a gathering at someone else’s home, follow CDC Considerations for Events and Gatherings. Below are some general considerations for hosting a gathering with guest from different households. Please consider the following:
    • Check the COVID-19 infection rates area where attendees live on state or local health department sites.
    • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
    • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
    • Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
    • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Sending Gifts – sending cards or gifts remains a relatively easy way to let loved ones know you’re thinking of them. Now’s the time to start planning for Thanksgiving through the New Year.
  • Sharing a Meal Remotely – consider having a small dinner with only your immediate household or sharing a holiday meal with loved ones virtually via smartphones, tablet, or laptop.
  • Shopping Online – opt for Black Friday/ After Thanksgiving online shopping or Cyber Monday.
  • Annual Outdoor Activities – watch sports events, holiday parades and movies from home. 

As always, we urge everyone to stay safe if you plan to attend an in-person holiday gathering and remain vigilant when interacting with dear friends and loved ones. Protect yourself and your loved ones by following these 3 W’s:

    • Wear a Mask – when out in public or indoors with people who are not part of your immediate household. The only exception is while eating or drinking!
    • Watch Your Distance – maintain at least 6 feet away from people who are not part of your immediate household.
    • Wash Your Hands – thoroughly and frequently with warm water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Test for COVID-19 – If you intend on traveling for a gathering this holiday season, please make an appointment for a free rapid COVID-19 virus test at a COVID Express Quickie Lab site throughout the city. Test results will be available within 24 hours or less of your visit. This means most patients will receive their test results on the same day as their result.  The test is free to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status. Here’s a list of where some of these COVID Express Testing Sites are:
  • The Bronx
        • Morrisania – 1309 Fulton Avenue The Bronx, NY 10456
  • Brooklyn
        • Crown Heights – 1218 Prospect Place Brooklyn, NY 11238
        • Fort Greene – 295 Flatbush Avenue Extension Brooklyn, NY 11201
  • Manhattan
        • Central Harlem – 2238 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10038
        • Chelsea – 303 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10001
        • Riverside – 160 West 100th Street New York, NY 10025
        • Washington Heights – 600 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032
  • Queens
      • Corona – 34-33 Junction Boulevard Jackson Heights, NY 11372
      • Jamaica – 90-37 Parsons Boulevard Queens, NY 11432

*If you do not see appointments above for a specific location, the clinic is currently booked. You can also look for other testing sites near you.

While this holiday season is likely to be memorable in ways that we never could have imagined. Thanks to rapid advances being made by medical research, we are confident that the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately get under control so we can return to freely hugging loved ones. Until then, please stay safe. Wishing each of you a wonderful and healthful holiday season, starting with a Happy Thanksgiving!