The Holiday Bubble: Celebrating Safely With Extended Family
Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the CDC website.
With stay-at-home orders and self-imposed quarantine, we've all spent time apart from our loved ones throughout 2020. Do we need to sacrifice more family time as the holidays approach? Not necessarily. Dr. James McDeavitt, chief clinical integration officer of St. Luke's Health and SVP and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine, recommends taking notes from the NBA.
Safe gatherings during COVID-19 are possible! It starts with a bubble.
"The NBA created a 'bubble' in Orlando, played all their games, and completed their post-season. Lots of co-mingling of people, plenty of close, maskless physical contact. How many infections since the NBA resumed regular season play in August? Zero," McDeavitt explains.
While we don't have the same access to resources as the NBA — daily testing, taking over luxury hotels, etc. — McDeavitt believes it is possible to create your own "holiday bubble" and have a relatively safe and responsible time with family.
"Following the lesson of the NBA, forming an effective bubble requires planning, commitment, and attention to detail."
Is creating a holiday bubble right for you?
Let"s first cover some important considerations:
- Assess your risk. While a holiday bubble can significantly decrease your risk of infection, it cannot eliminate it entirely. Look into the pros and cons of visiting with family if you are vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.
- It only works if everyone is committed. It only takes one person who does not follow the rules to burst your bubble.
With that said, if you determine that the holiday bubble is right for you, be sure to follow McDeavitt's recommendations.
Follow these guidelines to safely celebrate the holidays with your extended family.
To Do Today
- Make sure everyone gets a flu shot. COVID-19 isn't the only virus to be concerned about this time of year. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu, and when you get the shot, you extend protection to the people around you. Schedule a no-wait appointment today.
- Communicate openly. This is key to a safe family get-together. Making sure everyone is on the same page about doing this right is the most important part of the process. Ask these questions:
- Who in our family is vulnerable to COVID-19?
- Is everyone comfortable with coming together in person?
- Will everyone practice all COVID-19 precautions (handwashing, social distancing, wearing masks) for at least two weeks in advance of the get-together?
- Encourage compliance.
- Send the Holiday Bubble Checklist (below) to every participant.
- Choose a Holiday Bubble Commissioner among your family who will remind everyone to start or complete timeline milestones.
- Have everyone take the pledge and sign their checklist to stress the importance of following the process.
- Choose the location. The ideal bubble is a private home with plenty of room for everyone and access to an outdoor space. "Once everyone arrives, you are there to stay. No excursions, no visitors. Once in the bubble, you stay in the bubble," reminds McDeavitt.
- Order face shields if flying. In addition to masks, wear a plastic face shield or goggles when traveling to protect your eyes.
- Make plans to minimize exposure while traveling. This includes buying a direct flight, limiting the number of pit stops on the road, and checking for travel restrictions and quarantine requirements at your destination.
2 Weeks Before Gathering
- Start quarantine. This is the time for everyone to limit contact with others. Stay home as much as possible, and if you have to leave the house, practice COVID-19 prevention guidelines to a T. Consider wearing your face shield in addition to your mask when around outsiders.
- Monitor symptoms. Everyone should take their temperature and note how they're feeling daily. If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor or set up a virtual visit for evaluation and prepare to get tested. Instead of a rapid test, get a molecular COVID-19 test, also known as a PCR test. If the test comes back positive, cancel your household's participation in the bubble.
- Buy non-perishables. If you will be preparing the food, stock up on non-perishable foods ahead of time. If you're traveling, buy snacks now so you won't have to make food stops along the way.
5-7 Days Before Gathering
- Time to get tested. As a precaution, everyone should get a PCR test. If anyone in your house tests positive, stay home for the holidays.
- Gather your travel supplies. Make sure you have hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and disposable gloves for your journey. Check for any travel restrictions once more.
- Finish getting all ingredients. Now is the time to buy the perishable foods for your holiday feast. Consider using contactless grocery delivery services rather than going to the store.
- Drive if you can. This helps you limit exposure to other travelers. Bring your snacks and attempt to complete the trip in a day. Limit road stops, and continue practicing strict prevention protocol.
- Fly if you must. Wear your mask and eye protection throughout your entire trip. Avoid eating and drinking so you do not need to remove your protective gear. Limit your fluid intake at least 30 minutes before your flight and during (unless your flight is longer than two hours). Use the restroom before boarding so you hopefully won't have to use the airplane's restroom. But if you do, keep your mask and face shield on, and wash your hands well.
In the Bubble
- Consider vulnerable members. If there are seniors or immunosuppressed participants, it's a good idea to continue practicing COVID-19 prevention methods in your bubble.
- Double check for safety. Confirm that everyone has followed the process before allowing people to enter the bubble. Then, enjoy yourself! You deserve some much-needed family time.
Download and share the Holiday Bubble Checklist!
"While these steps are not easy and require diligent commitment from everyone, following them meticulously should allow you to have a relatively safe holiday celebration with your loved ones," notes Doug Lawson, Ph.D., CEO of St. Luke's Health. "Sharing this message broadly will help us minimize the risk of spending time with loved ones over the holidays."
Keep your family safe and share your #HolidayBubbleBCM experience with us. All of us at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!
Baylor College of Medicine | Build your own holiday bubble