Holidays & Gatherings

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Holidays & Gatherings

As vaccines increase in Pennsylvania, we still must remain cautious. While we are making progress in getting vaccines to every Pennsylvanian who wants one, we must continue to follow our prevention measures. It may mean that our holidays look different this year, but we can still find ways to celebrate safely with our loved ones.

Holidays and social gatherings are important. And we have many traditions – often ones that include holding festive celebrations, spending time together, and sharing meals.

But research shows that small private gatherings with family and friends can spread the virus just as quickly as big public events. There is a significant risk of sharing the virus any time we get together with others we don’t live with, even if we feel fine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people from different households should avoid spending more than 15 minutes within six feet of each other in a 24-hour period. We should continue to follow all health and safety measures, like wearing masks and keeping six feet apart, and consider socializing virtually to protect your health and others.

Virtual Gatherings & Holiday Ideas

It may be different than our usual traditions, but there are many ways we can creatively celebrate the holidays, even when we aren’t in-person. A few ideas for how we can celebrate together safely include:

  • Enjoying extra quality time with your immediate household (and take advantage of the time you usually spend on hosting or traveling to a big gathering)
  • Hosting a virtual celebration and invite family and friends who might normally be too far away to participate in your usual in-person events
  • Creating a feeling of togetherness by organizing a drive-by potluck with each meal participant dropping off a portion of their dish at others’ homes (allowing for safe food sharing and minimizing food waste)
  • Taking a break from cooking and support your local restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery. You and your family and friends can order the same meal from the same place, or mix it up and order different dishes from different restaurants

Reducing Risk for In-person Gatherings

If you are hosting or attending an in-person gathering, please take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Though we may feel comfortable with family and close friends, we should not let our guard down.

It may be tempting to take off your mask, hug each other, and be physically close when spending time with loved ones. But even if you or others appear to be healthy, you may still be carrying and sharing the virus.

Please follow the health and safety measures recommended by the CDC for hosting or attending a gathering. That includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Wearing a mask when not eating or drinking AND keeping six feet apart
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Limiting shared contact with food and serving utensils
  • Bringing your own plates, eating utensils, and drinks
  • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and shared items
  • Downloading the COVID Alert PA app from the App Store or Google Play

If possible, try to organize the event outdoors in a well-ventilated space. Even outdoors, guests should wear masks when not eating or drinking. And most importantly, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are feeling unwell, please stay home.

Mask Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People

If you’re fully vaccinated and you’re gathering with others who are also fully vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask or social distance. What that means from a practical standpoint is that if everyone is fully vaccinated, you can visit with friends and family.

  • You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot if you received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
  • If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your single dose shot.

Research has shown that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and potentially less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. However, there is still more to learn about how long protection through vaccination lasts and whether vaccines will protect against new variants of the virus.

That means some prevention measures will continue to be in place for all people, regardless of their vaccination status. You must continue to wear a mask when you’re out in public, including when you visit a business. And if you’re ever in doubt, wear a mask just to be safe.


Add your phone to the fight against COVID-19 by downloading the COVID Alert PA app. After you have downloaded the app, you can opt-in to receive alerts if you have had a potential exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. If traveling to other locations in the United States, the app works in:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

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