The safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is at home with the people you live with. Attending indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household puts you and your loved ones at higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19.
COVID-19 case numbers are increasing at an alarming rate in Clark County, and holiday gatherings could potentially drive local case numbers even higher.
Alternatives to traditional holiday activities
With a little creativity, you can stay connected and celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Here are some ideas for low-risk holiday celebrations:
- Invite family members and friends you don’t live with to join you for a virtual holiday meal.
- Prepare a favorite holiday recipe and deliver it to loved ones in a way that avoids contact with others.
- Invite friends and family to join you virtually to decorate cookies or do a holiday craft project.
- Gather virtually to open gifts, read holiday stories, sing songs and spend time together.
- Do a secret gift exchange. Assign each participant a name and ask them to buy a gift for their assigned person and deliver it without contacting the person. Have a virtual gathering to open gifts and guess who purchased the gift.
- Have a virtual game night.
- Gather virtually to bake or cook a dish together – or turn it into a holiday baking competition.
- Host a virtual ugly sweater or other holiday-themed party.
Tips for safer gatherings
Those who plan to host or attend in-person gatherings with people they don’t live with should take steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
- Self-quarantine. All attendees should quarantine for 14 days prior to the gathering, or quarantine for seven days and have a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the gathering.
- Keep the guest list small. Gathering with fewer people from one other household is safer than gathering with more people from several households.
- Gather outside, if possible. Indoor gatherings are higher risk than outdoor gatherings.
- If you gather indoors, open windows and doors to increase ventilation. Gather in a location that allows people from different households to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.
- Wear face coverings anytime you’re not eating.
- Keep the gathering short. Longer gatherings are higher risk than shorter gatherings.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Avoid buffet-style potlucks and sharing of utensils. Instead, have each household bring their own food and drinks.
- Avoid gestures that require close contact with others, such as hugging or shaking hands.
- After the gathering, stay home as much as possible for 14 days. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, contact your health care provider to request testing.
You should not attend in-person gatherings if:
- You have tested positive for COVID-19 and have not completed isolation.
- You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are awaiting results from a COVID-19 test.
- You have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and have not completed your 14-day quarantine.
Public Health recommendations for schools
The risk of COVID-19 being introduced into schools depends on the level of COVID-19 spread in the community. At this time, any degree of in-person instruction will present some risk of infection to students and school staff.
While children generally have mild COVID-19 disease, serious infections have occurred. Teachers and other school staff are at risk for more serious disease, particularly older adults and those with certain underlying health conditions. Students and staff who get infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others in the school and the community.
In-person learning provides a broad range of benefits to children, but virus transmission in the community must be low enough to make attendance safe for students and staff. Washington State Department of Health’s decision tree framework for reopening schools for in-person learning provides the following recommendations based on COVID-19 activity in the community:
- High COVID-19 activity: More than 75 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days
- Recommendations: Distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning for students who need it most, such as children with disabilities, students living homeless, those farthest from educational justice and younger learners. Sports and extracurricular activities postponed or canceled.
- Moderate COVID-19 activity: 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days
- Recommendations: Distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning for students who need it most, such as children with disabilities, students living homeless, those farthest from educational justice and younger learners. Gradual expansion of in-person education, beginning with elementary students. Over time, consider adding hybrid in-person learning for middle or high school students. Sports and extracurricular activities postponed or canceled. Consider low-risk activities when all students have some level of in-person learning.
- Low COVID-19 activity: Less than 25 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days
- Recommendations: Full time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school students. Over time and if physical space allows, consider full time in-person learning for middle and high school students. Consider low and moderate risk in-person extracurricular activities.
Public Health calculates the current COVID-19 activity level in Clark County once a week and posts the updated rate on the website every Tuesday. See the COVID-19 data webpage for the current COVID-19 activity level.
Clark County Public Health is working closely with local superintendents on plans to safely resume in-person education. Public Health will reference the state’s decision tree framework, monitor COVID-19 activity in the community and consider other factors, such as hospitalization trends and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, when making recommendations to schools.
Public Health will consider recommending expanded in-person learning, beginning with the youngest students, after COVID-19 levels remain in the moderate range for at least three consecutive weeks following Labor Day. Likewise, COVID-19 activity levels will need to remain in the moderate range for at least three consecutive weeks before adding hybrid in-person learning for older students.
The three-week waiting period will allow Public Health and school administrators to see how the changes affect local COVID-19 activity levels and identify any potential virus transmission in the schools.
Information about cases in local public and private K-12 schools is available on the COVID-19 cases in schools page. Additional resources for schools and parents are available on COVID-19 resources page.
How can I keep myself and others healthy?
Clark County Public Health is urging everyone to take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community:
- Wear face coverings. Cloth face coverings should be worn anytime you are in public or gather with others from outside of your household.
- Give space. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, in public and anytime you're around people you don't live with.
- Don't congregate. Gatherings should be small (no more than five people) and infrequent.
Everyday practices to prevent colds, influenza and other respiratory illnesses can also protect people against coronaviruses, including COVID-19. Clark County Public Health recommends people take the following actions to keep themselves healthy:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Stay home and away from others when sick.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider about testing as soon as possible. Early testing is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Clark County.
Here is guidance for people who have or think they have COVID-19:
- What to do if you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (Español) (русский)
- What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 (Español)
- What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been around anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 (Español) (русский)
People who are unable to access testing through their regular health care provider, those who do not have a health care provider or those who are uninsured can find providers offering testing on our COVID-19 testing webpage.
Face covering requirements
Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman issued a health order mandating the use of cloth face coverings, effective June 26.
Face coverings are required in all common spaces, such as public buildings, businesses, health care facilities, shared hallways of apartment buildings and hotels, elevators, while riding public transportation or in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle. Face coverings are also required when outdoors and unable to maintain physical distancing.
The mandate applies to those 5 years and older. Face coverings are recommended, but not required, for children 2 to 5 years old while in public places. Children younger than 2 should not wear face coverings. There are exemptions for people with certain disabilities or health conditions.
Gov. Inslee issued an order, effective July 7, that requires businesses to enforce the use of face coverings by all customers and visitors. Under the order, businesses cannot provide goods or services to those who are not following the face covering mandate.
Report businesses suspected of violating the governor's order here.
All employees are also required to wear cloth face coverings or face masks, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site. Employers must provide cloth face coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection.
Refer to the state Department of Labor & Industries’ Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements or their Which Mask for Which Task guide for more information. Labor & Industries also an online mask tool to help employees select the appropriate face coverings. And visit the Department of Labor & Industries' website for answers to frequently asked questions regarding the face covering requirement.
What are cloth face coverings?
A cloth face covering is fabric that covers the nose and mouth. It can be:
- A sewn mask secured with ties or straps around the head or behind the ears
- A piece of fabric tied around a person’s head
- Made from variety of materials, such as fleece, cotton or linen
- Factory-made or made from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts or towels
Cloth face coverings are not a replacement for physical distancing or limiting contact with others. Face coverings also do not replace the need to frequently wash hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and stay away from people who are sick. Taking all of these steps, in addition to wearing face coverings, are important for staying healthy and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
How do cloth face coverings work?
Cloth face coverings are intended to protect others, not yourself. People infected with the virus causing COVID-19 may not have any symptoms (asymptomatic) but still spread the virus. And people who are infected can spread the virus up to two days before they develop symptom (pre-symptomatic).
When a person who is already infected with the virus (even if they don’t have symptoms) wears a cloth face covering, it can prevent the spread of infection to others by blocking droplets from spreading when the person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
To be effective, face coverings should be worn consistently. Be sure to wash hands before putting on a fabric mask and after taking it off, and be careful not to touch your face with unwashed hands if adjusting the mask. Face coverings should be changed when moist and washed after use. Worn face coverings may be contaminated. Find more dos and don'ts of face coverings here.
Learn how to make a no-sew fabric mask in this video with Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Additional tips and instructions for making face coverings are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
How do I correctly wear a face covering?
- Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
- Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
- Make sure you can breathe easily
- Don’t put the face covering around your neck or up on your forehead
- Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to disinfect
How do I safely take off a face covering?
- Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops
- Handle only by the ear loops or ties
- Fold outside corners together
- Place covering in the washing machine (learn more about how to wash cloth face coverings)
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing