The One Thing You Should Be Bringing to Someone Else's House Right Now
Experts say doing this can make gathering less risky during the pandemic.
Health experts around the world are urging people to avoid gathering for the winter holidays as the coronavirus continues to spread. Despite this, many Americans are still planning to see their loved ones this year. In fact, a poll from Cinch Home Services found that more than 60 percent of people say they're still planning to attend a holiday gathering in 2020. So if you are gathering for the holidays amid COVID, experts say there is one thing you need to be bringing with you to other people's houses: your own utensils. Read on to find out why this makes a significant difference, and for more guidance on staying safe, It Only Takes This Long to Get COVID in a Room With Someone Who Has It.
"Bringing your own dining utensils may help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and other germs," says Jenna Liphart Rhoads, PhD, a nurse and medical education advisor for Nurse Together.
Of course, this advice may seem confusing, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously reported that contracting the coronavirus from surfaces was less likely than airborne transmission from close contact. But while this remains true, utensils make the virus easier to spread from surface contact because they are touched and then directly placed in your mouth.
"Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19," the CDC explains. "It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes."
The CDC even highlights the dangers of shared utensils in their winter holiday gathering guidance. In this, they ask people to limit contact with commonly touched surfaces, such as serving utensils, and to consider single-use utensils. And in their earlier Thanksgiving guide, the CDC specifically urged gatherers to "bring [their] own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils."
According to Rhoads, you should bring your own utensils in a protected covering, such as a plastic bag. This will limit the ability for someone's contaminated particles to fall on your utensils when they are breathing, coughing, or talking. And it's not as if this is an unrealistic scenario, either. Ava Williams, MD, a primary care doctor at Doctor Spring, says the "risk of cross-contamination is higher during gatherings when there are shared food platters, buffet setups, or even with cutlery sharing."
On Dec. 11, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented contact tracing data that found that 74 percent of COVID cases from September to November were the result of private gatherings in people's homes. This source of infection was nearly 10 times higher than than the second-highest driver of COVID cases, healthcare delivery.
"You get indoors, you take your mask off because you're eating and drinking, and you don't realize that there may be somebody that you know that you love who is perfectly well with no symptoms and yet they got infected in the community and brought it into that small gathering that you're now having in your home," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned in a conversation with Cuomo on Dec. 7.
While gathering with loved ones is an opportunity some aren't willing to miss, doing everything you can to make this risky activity safer is strongly encouraged. For more ways the CDC says you can make your winter holiday celebrations a little safer, keep reading, and if you're worried about getting sick, This Common Sensation Could Be a Sign You Have COVID, Doctors Warn.
Wear a mask.
Don't show up to someone else's house without a mask on, the CDC says. And not only that, but your mask should also have two or more layers, be worn over your nose and mouth, and fit snugly against the sides of your face. And for more help with face coverings, Wearing This Mask Could Be Worse Than No Mask at All, Study Says.
Keep your distance from those you don't live with.
Even if you're going to spend time with your loved ones, maintaining distance is extremely important. The CDC reminds people that they are more likely to get or spread COVID when they are in close contact with others for a total of 15 minutes or more. The only people you should be within six feet of are the people who live in your household. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
If you can have your gathering outside, the CDC encourages this. However, given that it's winter, that may be unlikely. For indoor gatherings, they recommend that you try to "bring in fresh air by opening window and doors." And for more ways you're not protecting yourself, If You Don't Have This in Your Home, You're at Higher Risk for COVID.
Keep holiday music at a low volume.
This precaution may not be one you think about, but it also comes straight from the CDC. According to the organization, keeping background music at a low volume during gatherings will help guests avoid singing or shouting—which can elevate the potential for the virus to spread from person to person. And for more on the spread of coronavirus, This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.