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What is San Mateo County’s recommendations for staying safe during the upcoming holidays?

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California and San Mateo County recently released guidelines on how to help keep you and your loved ones safe during the holidays. In short, “The safest gathering is one that is a small, stable group that meets outdoors for a short duration and uses face coverings, distance and other safety measures.” 

Here is a breakdown of that guidance:

SMALL. Gatherings should involve no more than 3 HOUSEHOLDS, including hosts and guests (more than 3 households gathered together is actually in violation of current state code) 

SHORT. Limit the time you spend with others to UNDER 2 HOURS.

STABLE. You should only partake in ONE GATHERING with up to 3 households. If you must attend several gatherings, keep it to the same group of people.

OUTDOORS. When possible, activities should occur outside, especially if guests will be eating. Consider having lunch or early dinner so the weather is more comfortable. If gatherings will be inside, open the windows and doors to increase ventilation.

In addition to this advice, you should plan to follow the standard safety recommendations: maintain 6 feet of physical distance from people not in your household, wear face coverings as much as possible, wash your hands frequently, avoid shouting and serve shared food safely.

While nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is NOT recommended, the county also offered some guidance on staying safe and planning ahead:

  • Pay attention to the spread of COVID at your destination location by looking at the CDC’s tracker for cases by state over the last 7 days. The more cases there are, the more likely you are to get infected.
  • It is strongly recommended that you self-quarantine for 14 days after your return if you participate in any higher risk activities, such as: spending time indoors with people you don’t normally live with if anyone is not wearing a mask or traveling on public transportation (planes, buses, trains or shared vehicles) if facemasks are not worn at all times 
  • Upon your return, monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days and get tested immediately if you have any symptoms. Even if you do not feel sick, consider getting tested 5-7 days after your return especially if you were in an area with high COVID transmission or if you engaged in activities that put you at risk for getting COVID. Even if you test negative, it is best to reduce your contact with others as much as possible for 14 days.


Jackie Phillips, MD, November 17, 2020