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Which holiday activities put you at the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19? The Texas Medical Association ranks them

Ice skating
Ice skating (Pixabay)

How risky is it to snap some socially-distanced photos with Santa? Take a twirl around an ice rink? Shop in-person on Black Friday? Host a holiday party?

The Texas Medical Association released a chart earlier this week that might help answer the questions Texans find themselves grappling with as they struggle to celebrate and honor holiday traditions without putting loved ones in danger during the coronavirus pandemic. The chart resembles another one that the Texas Medical Associated released earlier this year that shows which common activities put people at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

The new chart ranks 34 holiday activities from least to most risky “so holiday revelers can make informed choices during the busiest travel and social-gathering season of the year,” according to the association’s website.

“People are asking, ‘How social can I be during the holidays? What is safe or not safe?’” Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an El Paso infectious disease specialist and TMA COVID-19 Task Force member, said on the association’s website. “So the Task Force really wanted to be diligent about calling out certain activities and give people a compass to guide their behavior.”

The holiday season is arriving as the coronavirus spreads with renewed strength across the state.

The new chart, which ranks different holiday activities from 1 (least risky) to 10 (riskiest) based on their coronavirus risk level, was created under the assumption that “participants would wear a mask when practical, stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not household members, and wash their hands frequently,” according to the association. The chart was developed by the Texas Medical Association’s coronavirus task force, a team of front-line infectious disease and primary care physician experts tasked with advising fellow physicians across the state about COVID-19 developments.

The chart ranked shopping for gifts online (1) as the least risky behavior and celebrating New Year’s Eve at a bar or nightclub (10) as the holiday activity with the highest risk. Other high-risk activities include attending a homecoming dance (9), attending a college house party (9) or attending a large indoor celebration with singing (10).

“The more people, the closer together, the fewer the masks, the more mingling indoors, the longer the time, the more singing and voice projection, and the more alcohol – the greater the risk,” the chart reads.

Activities like decorating a gingerbread house with another household (4), ice skating at an outdoor rink (4) or traveling by plane to visit family or friends (5) run a moderate risk, while snapping photos with Santa (7), shopping in-person on Black Friday (8), hosting a holiday party with friends and family (8) and attending an indoor cultural or religious event (8) pose a moderate-to-high risk.

Traveling by car to visit family or friends (3) and having Thanksgiving dinner with family or household members (3) run a low-to-moderate risk.

Low-risk activities include viewing holiday lights with your family in your car (1), mailing a letter to Santa (1) and watching holiday movies at home with your household (1).

“Where there are less people or more ability to social or physically distance, that is going to be safer,” said TMA COVID-19 Task Force member and UT Southwestern Medical Center infectious disease specialist Trish Perl, MD. “Think of other ways to connect, like Facetime, and include them in the celebration without physically being there. Remember, no hugs for grandma this year.”


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