You Shouldn't Be Doing This One Thing With Your Family Now, WHO Warns
The global agency says that this simple act could spread coronavirus.
After a Thanksgiving that experts predict will create a "surge on top of a surge" of new cases in the coronavirus pandemic, health officials are doubling down on their recommendations not to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with friends and family members you don't live with. But even on top of that advice, one agency is saying that the situation is so dire in the U.S. that you shouldn't even be embracing those you love most. The World Health Organization (WHO) is advising that you shouldn't be hugging friends or family members as the COVID pandemic hits new heights. Read on to find out what this means for your upcoming holidays, and for one red flag that you may already be sick, check out This Strange Pain Could Be the First Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
During a press conference held on Dec. 7, officials with the U.N. health agency discussed the "shocking" rate of infection currently hitting the U.S. that makes close contact at traditional holiday gatherings a potentially life-threatening act, the Associated Press reports. "It's a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, 'Don't hug each other,'" said Michael Ryan, MD, executive director of WHO's emergencies program. "It's terrible."
"That is the brutal reality in places like the United States right now," he continued. "The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It's widespread. It's quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S—a country with a wonderful, strong health system [and] amazing technological capacities," he said.
Still, many will find the temptation to be affectionate with their loved ones too great to resist. If you're going to hug, which again, is not recommended, there is a less risky way for you to get in a quick squeeze, according to a report from The New York Times published in June. Read on to see the slightly safer ways to "bring it in," and for more on what can bring the pandemic to a halt, check out Dr. Fauci Says You Need to Do This One Thing to Stop COVID.
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Keep your hugs brief and turn your head.
Doctors speaking to The Times stressed that avoiding hugs altogether is still ideal since there is no clear way to know how contagious people can be. But they suggest that anyone who wants to embrace a loved one should do it very quickly while holding their breath and turning their face in the opposite direction of the person they're hugging to avoid passing aerosol droplets between one another. After letting go, it's best to move back to being six feet apart, avoid breathing on each another, and wash or sanitize your hands immediately. And for more on the worst PPE to wear, check out This Type of Face Mask Isn't Protecting You From COVID, WHO Warns.
Kids have another way they can hug adults, too.
Experts also suggested that smaller children can hug adult relatives around the waist or knees relatively safely. Still, doctors recommend looking in different directions to avoid breathing on one another, and also possibly changing clothes if the child's face mask comes in contact with the adult. And as a high-risk group, grandparents can also be extra cautious by approaching their grandchildren from behind and kissing them on the back of their heads through their mask, which will minimize exposure on both ends. And for more on what top health officials have to say about family gatherings, check out Dr. Fauci Says to Limit Your Holiday Celebrations to This Many People.
Stay away from those who are clearly ill.
The top thing that doctors advise against is pretty simple: never hug anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 such as a cough, fever, or sore throat. But that aside, the danger of exposure to coronavirus during a brief hug is thought to be relatively low—even if the person you're hugging is asymptomatic. "If you don't talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low," Linsey Marr, PhD, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and leading expert on airborne disease transmission, told The Times. And for more regular coronavirus updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Think quality over quantity.
Ultimately, most experts agree that you should aim for quality over quantity if you're going to hug your friends and family during this dangerous time. "I would skip more casual hugs," Marr told The Times. "I would take the Marie Kondo approach—the hug has to spark joy." And for more on how else you can stay safe during the holidays, check out This Is Where You're Most Likely to Get COVID Right Now, White House Says.