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Five recommendations for small gatherings

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), small gatherings are currently playing a significant role in spreading COVID-19. This holiday season, it remains vital that we continue to do our part to slow the spread of illness — particularly as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the southern Middle Tennessee region.

"COVID-19 is spread from person to person via airborne droplets when an individual coughs, sneezes or talks and can linger in the air and on surfaces from minutes to hours depending on the setting,” says Christopher P. Turner, M.D., chief medical officer for Maury Regional Medical Group. “If you have COVID-19 and don’t yet know it, you can spread the virus to friends, family or passersby who may be at greater risk for serious complications. That is why it is so important to mask, social distance, frequently wash your hands and follow CDC recommendations.”

As you look ahead to the holidays, the CDC advises that celebrating with members of your own household or hosting virtual gatherings are the safest options that pose the least amount of risk. If you are still planning to host or participate in a small in-person gathering with individuals outside your household, however, the CDC recommends that you:

  • Stay home and away from others if you are feeling sick — especially if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
  • Always maintain at least six feet of distance from others. If you’re hosting the event, arrange seating to allow for plenty of space between guests (people from the same household may still sit together). If it is possible, host your event outside or in a well-ventilated area with open windows. Plan activities that do not require close and/or physical contact.
  • Wear a face covering when you are around others who do not live in your household and/or when you are less than six feet apart. If you are hosting the event, consider providing disposable masks for your guests or sending out a reminder for guests to bring their own.
  • Wash your hands periodically with soap and water (or hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important upon arriving and leaving as well as before and after eating or using the restroom. Make sure to have power towels or single-use hand towels available in hand-washing spaces to avoid guests having to share the same towel.
  • Limit the number of people in the space where food is being prepared and avoid serving food buffet-style or passing dishes around a table. If possible, use single-use utensils, dishes and condiments or identify one person to be in charge of handling shareable items to reduce the number of surface touches.

The CDC also advises to always check and follow state and local guidelines and mandates. If these accommodations are not possible, consider alternate arrangements like hosting a virtual event or postponing your gathering to a later date.

Additional information regarding small gatherings and other types of events is outlined at In addition, the Georgia Institute of Technology now offers a risk assessment planning tool that allows users to evaluate COVID-19 risk based on location and event size.

An official headshot of Dr. VertreesChristopher P. Turner, M.D.,

is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia. Dr. Turner is the chief medical officer for Maury Regional Medical Group, which serves southern Middle Tennessee with more than 20 locations and 100 providers throughout the region.