How to Have Family Over Safely During the Holidays

Nov. 13, 2020 — 6 a.m. EST

So much of our lives have been reimagined this year due to the pandemic. School has changed, work has changed, even how you go food shopping has changed. While all of this change is designed to keep us safe, it’s hard to imagine the holidays without family and friends there to celebrate with us.

To help you enjoy the holidays safely this year, health inspector Peter Delucia, renovation expert Mike Holmes and lifestyle blogger Kallie Branciforte came on The Dr. Oz Show on November 13, 2020, to share ways you can prep your home for in-person holiday festivities. Here are their tips for keeping you and your family safe.

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Create a COVID-Safe Guest List

For those accustomed to large family gatherings, cutting down your guest list might be the hardest part of holiday planning. This year, you’re going to want to keep your guest list limited to immediate family or a few households that you know have been taking precautions. This is especially important if your family dinner will include loved ones who have a higher risk of catching COVID-19, such as those who are over the age of 65 or have a medical condition or issues with their immune system.

Make sure your guests know the symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, cough, sore throat, chest pain, chills, muscle aches — and that they shouldn’t attend if they experience any of those symptoms.

Lay Out the House Rules

You’re the host, which means it’s your job to set the tone for safety. Remind your guests that masks and social distancing are a must when not eating. When it comes time to eat, give your guest bags to put their masks in so they don’t get their germs on your clean table.

You can also ask your guests to get a COVID-19 test a few days before coming over. While the tests are good at picking up who has COVID-19, false negatives can — and do — happen. Try to get tested as close to your event as possible, giving yourself enough time to get results back, and then lay low until it’s time to celebrate.

Make a Safe Ventilated Space

Making sure your space has adequate airflow should be at the top of your list if you’re expecting guests who don’t live in your home. The risk of transmission is lower outdoors. So if you live somewhere warm, host your dinner outside. For those who live in cooler climates, open the windows in the front and back of your home to create airflow. It’s OK to turn on the heat if it gets too cold. Holmes also recommends installing a high-quality HEPA air filter.

Set Up Food as a Buffet

Don’t pass the potatoes this year! You can consider making your guests individual plates, like Branciforte is doing this year, or have your guests serve themselves buffet-style. Instead of leaving food on the main table, put it in a central location where people can get up and serve themselves. “Food should not be on the main table because it extends the time the food will be breathed on, and with people talking -- or yelling as is the case in many loud families on thanksgiving -- it raises that risk,” Delucia says.

To avoid crowding around the buffet, Dr. Oz advises inviting guests to come up in smaller numbers. If you need help deciding who gets to go up first, Dr. Oz suggests going by astrological sign, age order (oldest first, of course!) or doctors first!

Just because your holiday festivities might look different this year doesn’t mean they won’t still be great. You can still find ways to make this holiday season fun -- and, at the very least, the year you had to Zoom in grandma is sure to be memorable. For the latest information on COVID-19, visit Dr. Oz’s COVID-19 Center for updates.