Following a spurt in travel over Thanksgiving, Covid-19 disease is spreading like wildfire in many places in the U.S.  In spite of warnings from public health officials, travel during the Christmas holidays was also robust.  From December 20 through 27, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration reported that 8,079,502 travelers passed through TSA airport security checkpoints in the United States  That is 42% of the total for the same period in 2019. 

The large volume of travelers last week coupled with as many as 200,000 people testing positive each day  during the same period portends that traditional New Year’s celebrations could be particularly risky this year with many newly infected, asymptomatic, and highly contagious individuals who are likely unaware of their status.   

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines (below) suggesting ways we can  celebrate the New Year while minimizing exposure to potential infection.

Safer New Year’s Celebrations with Friends and Family

Staying home and celebrating with the people you live with or celebrating virtually with loved ones is the safest choice this year. Do not attend large gatherings this year. If you do host or attend a small gathering, everyone can take steps to make celebrating the New Year safer.

If you host a celebration

  • Talk with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Keep celebrations outdoors, if possible.
  • If indoors, open windows and doors. Use a window fan to blow air out, which will pull fresh air in through the open windows.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • Have guests bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Have extra unused masks available for your guests and encourage everyone to wear them inside and outside.
  • Keep background music volume low so guests don’t need to shout.
  • It’s okay if you decide to postpone or cancel your gathering. Do what’s best for you.

If you attend a celebration

A person is shown wearing a mask and carrying a basket filled with food and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • It’s okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. Do what’s best for you.
  • If traveling for a celebration, know what to do before, during, and after travel.
  • Bring your own food, drinks, and disposable plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask indoors and outdoors and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs that can alter judgement and make it difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
  • Avoid shouting and singing.
  • Avoid areas where food is prepared, such as the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like condiment packets.

Consider Other Activities to Celebrate New Year’s

Have virtual celebrations with loved ones

A family is shown talking to loved ones by using their computer and virtual meeting technology.
  • Attend a virtual concert or performance.
  • Plan a virtual countdown to midnight with friends.
  • Enjoy a virtual dinner or dessert with friends and family.

Plan a New Year’s party for the people you live with

A family is shown indoors, holding presents, with a laptop in front of them. They are talking to other individuals who are shown on the laptop screen.
  • Decorate, play music, and have a dance party with the people you live with.
  • Have a pajama party and watch your favorite movies or play games.
  • Plan a special meal or dessert with your family.

Reach out to family, friends, and neighbors

An urban neighborhood of apartment buildings and condominums is shown. People are standing at their windows and cheering together at midnight to ring in the new year.
  • Call, text, or leave a voicemail for family, friends, and neighbors wishing them a happy new year.
  • Call friends and family to count down to the new year together.
  • Plan a neighborhood countdown to midnight. People who live with each other can stand in front of their house and cheer together at midnight.

Other ideas

A family is shown playing a game in their home.
  • Watch a livestreamed firework display, concert, First Night event, or other New Year’s programming from your home, such as the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop. Virtual events are happening across the United States.
  • Take care of yourself and do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or taking a walk.
  • Pick up a special meal from a local restaurant to share with your household.
  • Plan an outdoor activity with people you live with such as a hike or sledding.
  • Set new year resolutions. Find out if your hometown is sponsoring a special social media event and share your resolutions.

These practices supplement the standard Covid-19 rules for washing hands frequently, wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and staying at home if you feel ill.

Getting a flu shot is also recommended as a way to lessen the strain on the healthcare system.

Final Thoughts

While the CDC has been slow to react to the virus at times, these guidelines sound like excellent advice for celebrating the New Year as safely as possible. Those who do not live in the United States should also consult the recommendations of the public health authorities where they live.

2020 has been one hell of a year. Let’s start 2021 on the right foot and hope it will be a big improvement in many ways.

Happy New Year!