There’s much anticipation for 2021, but infectious disease experts and public health officials stress that the safest way to celebrate the end of 2020 is to do so at home with the people who live with you, or virtually with friends and family.
“Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others (from COVID-19),” states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in widely distributed guidance  ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations on Thursday. “Travel and gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”
If you want to spend time with people who don’t live with you, the safer option is to meet outdoors. You are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities when you stay at least six feet from people who don’t live with you, and limit your time around others, the CDC emphasizes. “Remember to bring a mask with you to put on when you encounter people who may get closer than six feet, and follow local mask mandates,” the CDC states.
A large percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 don’t have any obvious symptoms, and many are asymptomatic and have not been tested so they don’t know they’re spreading the disease. This is why universal mask wearing is crucial, public health officials say.
Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect yourself and others if you ring in the new year with people outside of your household, the CDC says. Also, make sure your mask is over your nose and mouth, secure it under your chin, and make sure it fits snugly against the sides of your face, experts add.
“We know that a number of people in the community have asymptomatic disease or are pre-symptomatic — and by that we mean that you have the disease before you notice that you have symptoms,” says Yvonne Johnson, M.D. , chief medical officer at South Miami Hospital . “But if I have it and I don’t know it, and I’m wearing a mask, and the person I’m talking to is also wearing a mask, I don’t expose them. Then the disease stops there with me.”
The CDC says if you plan to celebrate New Year’s with people outside of your immediate circle, make sure you take these steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) apart.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Wash your hands.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Get a flu shot as soon as possible.