We are heading into the long haul this winter with temperatures dropping forcing us to move indoors, we are facing more limited options to gather safely and quite frankly-ways to keep us entertained and sane over break. 

Holiday Gathering Safety Considerations for Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays  

Indoor gatherings pose a higher risk due to a decreased amount of air ventilation. On top of location, you will also need to consider the duration and number of people that are attending your gathering. Be extra mindful of those who are traveling from outside communities, similar to you. 

There are some guests that you should not invite to your holiday gatherings. These guests would be people who have or have recently been exposed to COVID-19 and those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (such as your grandparents). Ensure your guests understand the importance of staying home if they are experiencing symptoms, or if they have been exposed. Ask your guests about any underlying health issues that could cause them to be at a higher risk and brainstorm ways that they can still be involved in the gathering safely. This may include doing a car parade outside your loved one’s house or video chatting with them at the event. 

More Ways to Keep Yourself Safe: 

  • Communicate with your guests before the gathering on how you will be keeping yourself and others safe. Inform your attendees about mask wearing, how you will stay physically distant, and about disinfecting protocols (for example, will hand sanitizer be provided?) 
  • Bring your own food, dishes, and utensils to family gatherings. 
  • Limit the amount of time spent at the gathering (the longer the time, the higher the risk) 
  • Keep your gatherings small with 10 or less people within your immediate family who live locally.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering—Have people been laying low–yes or no? If yes, they would be a low-risk guest at your gathering. If no, as in they have been engaging in high-risk activities such as going out to bars and restaurants, they may be a high-risk guest at your gathering. 
  • And as always, mask up, back up, and wash up. 

Assessing Risk of Gatherings 

Low Risk

  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family. 
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others. 
  • Connecting with those who are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 such as video chatting with grandparents. 
  • Organizing drive-by parades for households to drive-by family members houses. 
  • Laying low two-weeks prior to a holiday gathering to decrease your risk of spreading the virus to others. 

Moderate Risk

  • Hosting a small gathering outdoors with 5 people from your immediate family who live locally, limiting the duration of the gathering.
  • Requiring masks for the entire duration of the gathering, especially while indoors. The only exception should be for those who have medical conditions or temporarily to eat or drink. 
  • Hosting your gathering indoors with enough room for everyone to maintain 6 feet of physical distance throughout the event and windows are kept open.
  • Having guests bring their own food, beverages, cups, dishes, and utensils OR pre-package everyone’s meal in separate container or provide disposable plates, cups, and utensils for guests. 
  • Making accommodations for those who are at a higher risk by having more precautions in place. 
  • Keeping a list of all attendees contact information in case if someone becomes ill after the event so you can quickly notify attendees.

High Risk

  • Hosting an indoor gathering with more than 10 people outside of your immediate family, including others who live out of state or from communities that have high COVID case numbers. 
  • Gathering indoors in a tight space where physical distance is difficult to maintain. 
  • Not enforcing or encouraging mask wearing. 
  • Serving food buffet style using reusable plates, cups, and utensils. 
  • Using alcohol or drugs which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors. 

We may not be able to gather the same this holiday season, but we strongly encourage families to get creative and gather in a virtual way.  


Staying Entertained 

Whether you’re staying in Winona or returning home for the holidays, we need to find new ways to keep us entertained and sane over the holidays. Instead of locking yourself away in your room binge watching Netflix or playing video games, we strongly encourage you to get outside and spend time with your family.

Low Risk

  • Laying low during the whole holiday season by minimizing your amount of contacts.
  • Spending Thanksgiving break on campus, especially if you have in-person requirements after break, and having a Friendsgiving with your roommates. 
  • Returning home until spring semester only if you have all online classes after break.  
  • Gift shopping online rather than in person. 
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home. 
  • Spending time outdoors with your household by participating in winter actives such as sledding and building snowmen and snow forts. 
  • Enjoying or preparing traditional holiday foods such as gingerbread houses and cookies. 

Moderate Risk

  • Returning home until spring semester without laying low prior to break or once you arrive home. 
  • Going to a local ice risk or a sledding or ski hill where wearing masks is encouraged or enforced and people are able to maintain physical distance. 
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place. 
  • Ice fishing or hunting locally with other members of your household. 
  • Attending local holiday light shows where visitors stay in their vehicles and drive through the lights in a parade like fashion. 
  • Volunteering or donating with local organizations or at local events where COVID-19 protocols are in place. 

High Risk

  • Returning home for Thanksgiving break and returning back to campus to finish the rest of the semester. 
  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving. 
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race. 
  • Attending crowded parades and events. 
  • Using alcohol or other drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors. 
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household. 
  • Traveling to a remote location for ice fishing or hunting with other members outside of your household. 

Don’t forget your mental and medical health while at home 

Counseling Services is here for you and will be offering telecounseling visits over break. Email counselingservices@winona.edu to set up an appointment. 

Health Services will be open over the holidays offering telehealth medical support and in-person appointments and COVID-19 tests as needed. Call 507.457.5160 to set up an appointment. 

While you’re away…

Keep in touch with us. Please let us know if you have gotten ill or have been in close contact with COVID-19 while you’re away. Fill out the self-report form 

COVID case numbers are rising across the country as we are entering the holiday season. Recent findings are suggesting that the spread is coming from family gatherings and weddings rather than bars and restaurants. With the current numbers, it’s just not safe to gather right now. 

At the end of the day, no one wants to be the cause of someone’s illness or get sick themselves. Everyone can make a difference in the pandemic by being mindful of their actions. You can be the difference by laying low over breaks. Let’s weather the storm together this holiday season.