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December 03, 2020

New Jersey issues COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for upcoming winter holidays

Gatherings should be held outdoors to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus among attendees, health officials said

Holidays Coronavirus
new jersey covid-19 health safety guidelines christmas hanukkah.jpg Mike Arney/via Unsplash

New Jersey health officials are discouraging residents from participating in traditional in-person visits with Santa Claus this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

As the state continues to grapple with rising coronavirus infections during the ongoing pandemic, New Jersey health officials are urging residents to prioritize outdoor gatherings and travel outside their homes as infrequently as possible for upcoming Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations.

That’s just two of several COVID-19 health and safety recommendations issued by the New Jersey Department of Health this week for gatherings during the winter holiday season.

Indoor gatherings should be limited to immediate household members only. If hosting an indoor holiday celebration with people not from one’s household, attendance should be kept as small as possible.

Seating arrangements should allow for social distancing, face masks should be worn when not eating or drinking, and high-touch surfaces should be frequently cleaned. Drink stations and buffets, as well as the sharing of serving utensils, should be avoided.

Tree and menorah lightings and visits with Santa Claus are among the celebrations that should pivot to outdoor settings or completely virtual. 

If visits with Santa take place indoors at malls, the experience should be touch-free, by reservation-only, enforce social distancing, and limited in time. Everyone involved must wear a face mask, and Santa should be behind a plexiglass shield in an open area. Children should not be allowed to sit on his lap.

Caroling and choir groups should practice social distancing from each other and their audience when performing. Performers should also wear face masks and consider putting a physical barrier in place.

While holiday parades are discouraged, participants should be limited if such events continue this month. Organizers should keep a list of names and phone numbers for contact tracing purposes, and all participants should be asked to practice social distancing and wear face masks.

Vendors and organizers of holiday villages, markets, and stores should implement social distancing and mask-wearing among staff, shoppers, and sellers. Reservations are recommended to limit crowd size, and such events should be held outdoors.

All outdoor and indoor gatherings must abide by the state’s limits. No more than 10 people should get together in indoor settings, and outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

“Sharing celebrations with family and friends are important holiday milestones,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “However, this year will be a holiday season like no other, and we must continue to maintain our vigilance against COVID-19 and celebrate safely and responsibly to ensure healthy holidays.”

A full list of the state’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for the upcoming holidays can be found here.

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