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'The holiday bubble' | Houston doctors describe how to plan a COVID-19-safe Christmas gathering

Cases of coronavirus are steadily rising in Harris County and the city of Houston and doctors worry Christmas could cause another spike.

HOUSTON — Many Texans now have their sights set on Christmas after altering their Thanksgiving plans due to the prevalence of COVID-19.

Cases in Houston and Harris County are rising. Week over week, the average number of daily cases increased, except the week including Thanksgiving, when many testing sites were closed.

Doctor James McDeavitt, the Senior Vice President and Dean of Clinical Affairs for Baylor College of Medicine, notes three "viable" and safe options for Christmas: 

  • Only celebrate with people who live in your household while virtually gathering with others
  • Celebrate outside while wearing masks and social distancing 
  • Following the holiday bubble plan

“If you’re going to do the holiday bubble, everyone needs to buy in and you need to follow those directions to the letter to stay safe," said Dr. McDeavitt. “It only takes one weak link or one bad apple to pop your bubble.

Dr. McDeavitt created a step-by-step guide for families to follow to create a safe "holiday bubble."

It includes setting out strict guidelines for guests, such as following strict mask and social distancing guidelines, and avoiding crowds for a minimum of two weeks prior to gathering and while traveling to the location where guests will meet.

If any guests are flying or taking other public transportation, make sure they have the appropriate personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, and possibly face shields. Do not remove them during travel, and do not use the restroom if possible.

Guests should also have a negative PCR test (nasal swab) result within seven days of the visit, and continue practicing those strict healthy habits from the date the test was taken until the gathering.

"One weak link will breach your bubble. Half-hearted commitments will only lead to a dangerous false sense of security," Dr. McDeavitt wrote in his outline. “There’s just so much more COVID-19 out in the environment right now, we have to be careful. In a high prevalence environment, it’s really important that people take it seriously.”