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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Guidance For Holiday Gatherings During The Pandemic

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor talks with USF Health's Dr. Charles Lockwood about how people can minimize their risk of spreading or contracting the coronavirus during the holidays.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor talks with USF Health's Dr. Charles Lockwood about how people can minimize their risk of spreading or contracting the coronavirus during the holidays.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration said this past week that elderly patients in Florida's nursing homes and other senior living communities can leave to visit family during the fall and winter holidays.

While they have to pass basic screenings like a temperature check to come back, they will not need a coronavirus test.

But medical experts are still warning about the risks COVID-19 poses to this population.

Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, echoes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving.

"If you have older parents, grandparents and so forth, it’s probably not a great idea to have them join a big family gathering. And if you are going to do it, make sure that that folks wear masks (and) try to social distance as best they can,” Lockwood said this past week during an appearance on Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's Facebook Live.

He also recommends Thanksgiving dinner takes place outdoors, if possible. Indoor spaces should also be well-ventilated, with doors and windows open.

While the CDC does not have a specific limit for the number of people at a gathering, it recommends people who don't live together stay six feet apart when they gather in the same place.

The CDC Ranks Thanksgiving Risks

Lower risk activities

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

Moderate risk activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household

For more CDC guidance, click here to see recommendations for holiday travel and gatherings.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.