01 Oct A Healthy Home For The Holidays
To host or not host is the question on many people’s minds! It seems as though every time we get comfortable with our new normal, 2020 throws us a new curveball. As if we all haven’t made enough sacrifices during Covid-19, we are now faced with the approaching holidays and the decision to include “Uncle Mike” and “Grammy B” at the house for Thanksgiving dinner.
We have had to make many sacrifices over the past 7 or so months during Covid-19. Now, as the pandemic still lingers, if not worsens, we have to decide whether to throw out past traditions and make room for new ones. Many are getting creative with thoughts of virtual potluck dinners, including themes, games, and recipe swaps. But for most, a virtual holiday gathering doesn’t seem splendid enough without getting out the fancy china and festive decorations.
With fears from public health officials suggesting holiday parties as well as more indoor activities because of colder weather could result in more illness, there is a real fear that Covid-19 cases could get much higher, causing a second wave of infections. Gathering indoors with extended family and friends can be risky, especially if there’s an older or high-risk person in your group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people 65 years and older are at higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19. About 80% of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 have been of people in this age group. But if you aren’t willing to scrap holiday dinners, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
The biggest suggestion and most common I have found from health experts is to ask everyone on the invite list to take proper precautions for at least two weeks before Thanksgiving or other holiday gatherings. Self-isolating as much as possible the weeks before everyone gets together is highly recommended. This would prevent someone from picking up the virus and bringing it to the celebration. If you are nervous, experts suggest asking all who plan on joining to get tested a few days before the gathering to confirm they are virus-free.
The second best advice from health experts is to practice safe hygiene and provide a sterile environment for your guests. Traditional organic house cleaning habits to prepare for holiday guests may be a thing of the past. As Covid-19 looms over holiday celebrations, it’s not enough to have shiny baseboards and perfectly placed pillows to impress guests. This year, the once-considered “quick-clean” checklist is being replaced with recommendations for heavy-duty disinfecting of high-traffic areas and sanitation stations. You may want to hire a professional cleaning company to tackle the excessive buildup and provide professional-grade, EPA-certified cleaning disinfectants to kill bacteria and other germs. After all, they have had months to prepare and train in commercial and residential cleaning services to provide a COVID-19-free zone to all clients.
While pure cleaning refrigerators, blinds, baseboards, and ceiling fans, as vacuuming and mopping, are included on a holiday cleaning checklist. In past preparation, switching out your air filters to help with indoor air quality may not have been considered. According to the EPA, replacing filters with an upgraded MERV-13 filter removes at least 85% of particles greater than 1 micron as they pass through the room’s HVAC system, which recirculates indoor air. You can also improve air quality by buying a certified HEPA air cleaner that is appropriately sized for the room. A HEPA filter can remove more than 99% of airborne particles that pass through it. If neither option is available, open windows to allow the fresh air to flow in and out. This dilutes the concentration of the virus. Fans can also be positioned to blow inside air out. Avoid blowing air around the room, which could spread the virus.
Other suggestions from the CDC that you may not have thought about to prepare your home for guests during Covid-19 are listed below.
Before you celebrate, the CDC recommends the following:
- Host outdoors if possible. If it is impossible to host outdoors, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors.
- Invite only people from your local area.
- Limit the number of guests.
- Suggest having guests bring extra masks, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues.
- If hosting people outside your household, consider asking your guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
During your celebration, the CDC recommends the following:
- Maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from people you don’t live with. Be particularly mindful of restrooms and eating areas.
- Provide hand sanitizer throughout the home and disinfect wipes for high-traffic areas such as doorknobs and toilet seats.
- Avoid handshakes and hugs; give fist pumps and/or wave.
- Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
- Clean and disinfect your home thoroughly before guests arrive, during the celebration, and after they have left.
- Use touchless garbage cans and wear gloves when removing or handling trash.
- Wash hands often.
- Use paper plates, cups, and utensils. If this is not an option, wash and disinfect everything used during the meal.
- Wash often hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep safe around food and drinks. While there is no evidence to suggest handling food or eating is associated with spreading Covid-19, it is possible to get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching your face, mouth or nose, and possibly your eyes.
- Ensure guests wash their hands when arriving, especially before and after preparing, serving, and eating food.
- Instead of potluck-style gatherings, encourage guests to bring food and drink for themselves and members of their households.
- Limit people going in and out of the kitchen or where food is being prepared or handled.
- Wear a mask while preparing food or serving it to others.
- Consider having only one person serve the food so as not to have more than one person handling serving utensils.
After your celebration:
- Clean and disinfect all dishes and serving ware.
- Wash and disinfect countertops and high-traffic areas.
- Replace filters in your home AGAIN
- Consider having the same professional natural cleaning crew return and do a post-cleaning package.
The CDC also recommends that when planning to host holiday celebrations, you assess current Covid-19 restrictions in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees.