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10 Tips for Spending Family Time During COVID


Family gatherings are one of the highlights of the holidays. It’s a time to catch up with one another, make great memories, and enjoy delicious food. However, many medical experts have recommended foregoing this tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic to help lessen the spread of the Coronavirus. Several times this year we have seen an increase in new cases after a holiday where people traditionally gather to celebrate.

According to the CDC, the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is an infectious disease that can cause severe illness and possibly death. Spreading is more likely when people are in close contact with one another. A person can even contract the Coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. We refer to this area as the T-Zone.

For those who still choose to spread some holiday cheer by hosting a gathering, here are 10 precautions you can take to minimize the risk of spreading the Coronavirus.

1. Limit the number of attendees.

The more people the greater the risk of infection. The CDC suggests having a small dinner with just the people who reside in your household. However, if you have to invite your aunties, uncles, cousins and them, try to limit it to 25 people or less.

2. Before the gathering brief guests about the precautions being taken and expectations.

Not everyone is following recommended precautions. So, it’s important that those attending know beforehand what measures you will be taking and what is expected of them before their arrival. That way, those who choose not to adhere can stay home. The last thing you want are disagreements and ruined family fun over a mask or temperature checks.

3. Perform temperature checks on all guests.

A fever is one of the early symptoms of the Coronavirus. Temperature checks are a simple, easy, and affordable precautionary measure. A person is considered to have a fever when he or she has a temperature of 100.4°F or above. Anything below is considered normal. Be aware that some people with the Coronavirus do not exhibit any symptoms and that includes a fever. I recommend purchasing a no-touch forehead thermometer. I highly discourage using an oral thermometer for multiple people even with sanitation measures in place.

4. If the weather is nice consider having your gathering outside.

According to history, the very first Thanksgiving outside and maybe you should too. Outdoor activities provide the circulation of fresh air. If your holiday gathering is inside, make sure that the rooms are well-ventilated.

5. Encourage family members to wear masks.

I’m sure by now I don’t need to tell you how wearing a mask helps lessen the spread of the Coronavirus even among family members. It may seem a little weird at first but keep in mind that it is for the health and well-being of everyone there, especially senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems. You can even make it fun and treat them like party favors and pass masks out to everyone who attends. The more festive the mask the better and make sure that they cover the nose and mouth.

6. Practice social distancing.

Family members do not have to sit elbow to elbow like you normally would. Put some space between place settings and seats. Six feet apart might not be possible but how about 3 feet or even 1 foot.

7. Wash and sanitize.

Encourage hand-washing and have plenty of hand sanitizer available. Insist that guests wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching any utensils or food. When washing your hands, use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

8. Don’t eat or drink after others.

The key to all of this is lessening the spread of germs that come from our mouths and noses. I know you usually let your cute little cousin feed you just for kicks but this time stick to the food, drink, and utensils on your own plate.

9. It’s okay to stay home.

Encourage people who are not feeling well to stay home. This is not the time to “just go anyway” because they haven’t seen the family in a while.

10. Forego usual after-dinner family activities.

Watch sporting and holiday events, parades, and movies at home with your immediate family. Packing everyone into the family room to watch football or “It’s a Wonderful Life” really isn’t wise during this pandemic. Try having a virtual screening instead so you can all safely watch together.

Keep in mind that it won’t always be this way. If we all practice recommended precautions the curve will flatten and eventually life and social interactions will get back to normal. Until then, practice health and safety precautions because we want all of our friends and family members to still be alive and well when it does.

Happy Holidays!

Dorsha James, MD, is a 15-year veteran emergency medicine physician in the Nashville, TN area. She now serves as the CEO and chief medical officer for her company myURGENCYMD. myURGENCYMD is a national telemedicine company that provides members with access to 24-hour, seven-day-a-week virtual consultations with a board-certified physician to discuss non-emergency conditions. She enjoys empowering patients by helping them understand how to properly utilize the many avenues for the treatment of medical conditions to obtain optimal health. To learn more about the company, visit


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