The 4 Biggest Mistakes You're Making When Visiting Relatives Amid COVID

No matter what your test results say, you should always keep your mask on.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has kept us from our offices, favorite restaurants, and long-awaited international vacations. But besides the loss of daily routine, it's also made it much harder to see the people you love most. Unfortunately, recent events have shown that large family gatherings like weddings, funerals, graduation celebrations, and holiday get-togethers have become superspreader events that can lead to tragic consequences. So how can you visit your family without putting anyone in danger? These are the mistakes you shouldn't make when you're visiting relatives amid COVID. And for more on where you're at highest risk of getting sick, check out This One Place Is Where You're Most Likely to Get COVID, Study Finds.

Visiting without getting tested beforehand

Doctor in protective workwear taking nasal swab from female patient with face mask

If there's anything we know about coronavirus testing at this point in the pandemic, it's that there's a lot we still don't know. The notoriously inaccurate testing processes can lead to false positives—or even worse, false negatives, which can result in the unintentional spread of COVID-19.

Of course, anyone who shows even mild symptoms should be tested immediately, but even those who are seemingly healthy can be doing a good deed by doing so. Infectious disease expert Carl Bergstrom, PhD, of the University of Washington, told CNBC getting checked out before visiting family falls under a category called "clearance testing," which is especially important for people living in areas where new case numbers may be high And for more on how to tell if you've been infected, check out If Your Symptoms Appear In This Order, You Likely Have COVID, Study Says.

Ditching your mask if you test negative

Portrait of young woman taking off a N-95 mask outdoors. End of Covid19/Coronavirus pandemic.

Getting negative results on a COVID-19 test may make you feel like you've dodged a bullet. But with some people staying asymptomatic for days, one faulty screening could be putting your loved ones in danger. "[Testing negative] might give people a feeling of confidence that may be unwarranted," Steven Pergam, MD, an associate professor in the vaccine and infectious disease division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told CNBC.

Gathering inside

family dinner raising kids over 40

Experts agree that without the proper precautions—like keeping your visits outside in the fresh air—it's not worth the risk to your relatives. "Unless the visit is outside and either at a safe physical distance or with everyone wearing masks, people should limit exposure to family and friends," Patrice Harris, MD, psychiatrist and president of the American Medical Association, told CNN. "Without a vaccine, the risk of spread is simply too great."

Getting too close

friends and family hugging each other

The hardest part of finally reuniting with loved ones during the pandemic may come down to not actually being able to get physically close to them once you're together. "Limit hugs and close contact, unless you have done a full quarantine," William Miller, MD, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University College of Public Health, told NPR. If you absolutely must go in for a hug, consider coming in from behind or turning your faces in different directions as you embrace to avoid breathing on one another. And for more coronavirus guidance from the experts, check out The CDC Just Made a Major Reveal With This New COVID Guideline.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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