Baylor College of Medicine

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Health and safety tips for the holiday meal

Kaylee Dusang


Houston, TX -

Give the gift of health this holiday season by following advice from a Baylor College of Medicine expert on minimizing the spread of the COVID-19 virus while still enjoying holiday meals with loved ones in your bubble.

“We have learned from this disease that even people with no symptoms can pass it on to others, so we cannot let our guard down at this time of the year,” said Isabel Valdez, physician assistant and instructor of general internal medicine at Baylor. “We can enjoy our loved ones but we need to do it as responsibly as possible by wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing.”

Whether you are hosting or attending a holiday lunch or dinner, Valdez provides a few tips on how to serve food that keeps COVID-19 away from your plate:

Avoid a buffet line     

A common way to serve food during holiday gatherings is buffet style, but Valdez recommends avoiding a buffet line this year. Instead, choose a designated server who has followed all safety precautions to prepare and serve the plates.

“It is simple to have food laid out as a buffet, but with buffet style there is always the risk that people can accidently cough or sneeze on the food,” Valdez said.

If you are serving or preparing the food, remember to wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds or more before and after you serve.

Move the meal outdoors

If the weather allows and there is space, Valdez said the best option is to move the meal outside where there is less risk of transmission. Remember to space tables and chairs at least 6 feet apart when people are eating together.

If it is not possible to sit outside then consider spreading people out by setting up small serving tables and eating areas throughout house. Opening up the windows and keeping fans on is another option to help with ventilation indoors.

At the dinner table

  • Wear a mask at the table until it is time to eat
  • Wash your hands before and after you eat
  • Watch your drinks – avoid leaving them unattended so no one accidentally drinks after you
  • Avoid passing plates, sharing food or eating off each other’s plates

If you are hosting, make it easier for guests by keeping hand sanitizer, soap and clean towels for washing hands readily available throughout the house. If you are attending a gathering, bring your own hand sanitizer to keep with you just in case.

Watch for symptoms

If you begin experiencing any COVID-related symptoms, Valdez said it is best to stay out of the kitchen and avoid attending the gathering altogether.

“If you have been invited to someone else’s home and you start feeling sick a day or two before the gathering, it would be safe, responsible and understandable if you opt stay home,” Valdez said. “The same thing applies to those who are hosting – if the host or anyone in their family is feeling ill, it would be wise to skip having the dinner with others or reschedule the event for another time.”

Keep it small     

If you are hosting a holiday gathering, Valdez adds that an essential way to avoid transmission at the dinner table is by keeping it small with only a few trusted family members and friends.

“We know the phrase “the more the merrier” but this time of year it’s going to be the fewer the safer,” she said.

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