Many seniors have gone a long time without seeing loved ones, but this holiday season there are ways everyone can have a good, safe time together. It helps to have a plan when deciding how you and your family will interact. The following are a few key elements to consider.
- Consider COVID testing prior to your gathering. There are many places in Marin County to get a free COVID-19 test (like your local pharmacy, grocery store or a clinic). The “PCR” tests are the most reliable, but you would need to take it at least a day or two before your get-together because the results usually take 24-48 hours. Of course another option is a “Rapid” test. Those can generally be purchased from the same providers and also on websites like Amazon. While not quite as accurate, they generally are easy to self-administer and give results in about 15 minutes. Both options are a great way to feel relatively secure that your family and friends are COVID-free especially if any guest is unvaccinated, has travelled from riskier areas, or has been in large groups.
- Before attending or hosting a holiday event, consider the COVID-19 situation in the area. Fortunately, Marin County is leading the nation in vaccination rates and cases are low, so the risk is lower if everyone is from the area. Other portions of the state and country have higher number of cases and going to them, or getting together with people from those areas increase your risk. So you might want to make other plans and/or be extra careful about wearing a mask, keeping some distance and washing your hands frequently.
- It makes a big difference where people will be gathering. There’s one thing everyone agrees on, and that is that get-togethers are less risky outdoors and fortunately we are blessed with often fine outdoor weather in Mill Valley. If the plan is to spend a significant amount of time indoors, you should consider/suggest good ventilation, such as open windows or doors.
- Think about how many people will be there and how long. Often, the more people the better, but this season smaller gatherings mean less risk for seniors. The same is true of the length of time everyone is together. Sometimes it is great to just sit back, relax and watch the action, but this year you might want to skip the games or encourage several shorter visits. Our area is doing well so limits on the number of people are not stringent, but some community COVID-19 guidelines allow much fewer people to gather in one place.
- Encourage family, friends and guests to follow safe practices. While there is no way to be 100% safe, you can significantly reduce your risks. Since the start of the pandemic, the key recommendations have been to: wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose; try to stay six feet apart as much as possible; and wash your hands frequently. Asking others to do so may be a little uncomfortable, but those that love you will understand. If they do not, or will not, the risks are higher and you will need to decide what is best for you.
- Find out if anyone attending has symptoms or has been recently exposed to someone who has COVID-19. If the answer to either is yes (meaning they have a temperature, cough, aches, loss of sense of smell or taste or have been exposed), that doesn’t mean you cannot see them, but it would be better to wait about 10 days before getting too close.
Thinking about the items listed above will help you develop a plan to protect yourself, other seniors and loved ones of all ages. Here’s wishing you the best this holiday season. We hope this helps you keep safe and have fun!