Bassett Healthcare Network is cautioning the public about plans for travel and gathering with loved ones ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. This holiday season, consider how your plans may be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your families, friends, and communities healthy and safe.

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk. Current New York State health guidelines advise that no more than 10 people gather at a time in a private setting.

People who are organizing/hosting gatherings or traveling are urged to consider a number of factors that may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including:

· Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread.

· Exposure during travel activity – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.

· Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (small enclosed spaces like kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms) pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.

· Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick.

· Number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more of a risk for spreading COVID-19.

· Behaviors of attendees before and during the gathering – Individuals who do not practice social distancing, mask-wearing, and other preventive measures pose a risk.

“We understand that this year has been stressful and isolating, and there’s nothing we’d all like more than to be able to connect with our loved ones this holiday season,” says Joseph Sellers, MD, physician executive, Bassett Medical Group. “As hard as it is, we must remain vigilant and continue to practice social distancing to keep others safe. If you must travel or are planning a gathering, we urge you to follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to do so safely. This is especially important as COVID-19 cases are rising in our local areas and around the country.”

Visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus for more information on consideration for holiday plans.

Learn more about Bassett Healthcare Network’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and safe care practices by visiting www.bassett.org/safe-care.