New Year’s Eve is normally a time for friends to gather and celebrate the arrival of a new year, but you don’t want to share a champagne flute or a kiss at midnight because traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations can be a prime breeding ground for COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that parties can potentially become “super spreader” events because most New Year’s Eve celebrations take place inside due to cold weather, from confined spaces with limited ventilation, in which airspace may be shared and frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs or serving utensils may harbor an infectious virus.
When drinking alcohol, inhibitions can cause people to discard precautions like social distancing, especially after 10 months of depriving ourselves of social interaction. Dancing encourages guests to share airspace. Shared party favors, food and drinks typically encourage people to congregate around a shared table. Singing and talking over loud music also increase the risk of spreading respiratory droplets through the air while people tend to stand closer to one another to hear better. Additionally, new cases of COVID-19 have increased as some have ignored recommendations against family gatherings during the Christmas holiday.
These ingredients combine to make such festivities potentially target-rich environments for the disease to be transmitted. At greatest risk are elderly individuals, those with weakened immune systems, and people with preexisting conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular issues. With the arrival of a few approved vaccines, many are feeling hopeful about getting back to a sense of normalcy. But we’re not there yet.
The CDC offers some tips on how to celebrate New Year’s safely:
• limit gatherings of people from different households to outdoor spaces where seating is arranged at least 6 feet apart, such as backyards, lawns, porches or driveways.
• wear face masks that fit snugly against the sides of the face and completely cover your nose and mouth
• have extra unused masks available for your guests and encourage everyone to wear them
• keep background music volume low so guests don’t need to shout
• ask guests to bring their own food and drinks, cups and utensils
• frequently disinfect high touch surfaces throughout the night
• provide guests with hand sanitizer or handwashing stations for hygiene
• encourage guests with weak immune systems or preexisting conditions to stay home or participate virtually over FaceTime or Zoom
• watch televised events such as New York’s renowned Times Square ball drop, which will be held digitally this year
• be especially cautious when shooting off fireworks, which can result in accidents leading to emergency room visits at a time when hospitals are already busy with coronavirus cases
To capture the occasion, people who choose to stay home can still dress up (or down in a pajama party) and create great photo ops for sharing on social media. Share your New Year’s Resolutions on Facebook and Twitter. You can opt for a smaller gathering with a smaller group of friends (preferably members of the same household who’ve already been together), and prepare fun cocktails, delicious appetizers and decadent desserts. Some people are starting a new tradition by binge-streaming movies or TV shows hailed by critics as the top programming of the year. Raising a glass for a virtual toast during Zoom calls with friends and loved ones – or calling, texting or leaving a voicemail wishing others a happy new year -- can be a safer way of virtually ringing in the New Year together.
To learn more, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/new-years-eve.html.