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High-risk holiday: Survey shows many people plan to attend family gatherings

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Columbus, OH — Almost 2 out of 5 people in the United States say they’ll likely attend a holiday gathering of 10 or more people from outside their household despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and a third of those hosting events say they won’t ask guests to wear masks, results of a recent Ohio State University survey show.

Researchers at the OSU Wexner Medical Center from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 conducted an online survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 adults. Although most respondents said they’d follow recommended health and safety precautions regarding holiday gatherings, some indicated they will not:

  • Ask guests who have COVID-19 symptoms to stay home (18%).
  • Celebrate with only household members (21%).
  • Follow physical distancing guidelines before/after dinner (27%).

According to Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the medical center, the safest option for holiday gatherings is to cancel in-person plans and find ways to communicate virtually.

“When you’re gathered together around the table, engaged in conversation, sitting less than 6 feet apart with your masks down, even in a small group, that’s when the spread of this virus can really happen,” Gonsenhauser said a press release. “We’re going to look back at what happened during this holiday season and ask ourselves, ‘Were we part of the solution or were we part of the problem?’”

Gonsenhauser suggested starting new holiday traditions during the pandemic, such as a virtual dinner, a virtual gift exchange, and dropping off surprise treats on the doorsteps of friends and family members.

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