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Guidance for holiday gatherings and travel

WVU campus stewart hall in the fall

As we approach the holiday season and many people begin to plan for celebrations and related travel, WVU wants to remind faculty, staff and students to stay vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the potential spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases continue to increase at an alarming rate across West Virginia and the U.S., and small household gatherings and travel have been identified as significant contributors to this rise in cases.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently shared guidance on how holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep your friends, families and communities healthy and safe. Highlights include: 

  • Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. 

  • Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (i.e., the number of attendees) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.

  • Individuals who currently have COVID-19 and those who have been exposed to the disease in the last 14 days should not attend in-person holiday gatherings. Similarly, anyone with an increased risk for severe illness should not attend gatherings outside their household. Those who live or work with someone at increased risk also should avoid gatherings outside their household.

  • Hosts should limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least six feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact — including handshakes and hugs — with people outside their household.

  • Whenever feasible, in-person gatherings should be hosted outdoors. 

  • Guests should wear masks when attending gatherings with people outside their household. Guests also should avoid singing or shouting — especially while indoors. 

  • Attendees should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and encourage others to do the same. If soap and water are not readily available, guests should use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

  • Commonly touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected often. Similarly, any shared items (e.g., remote controls) should be cleaned and disinfected between use.

Travel and Overnight Stays

Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. However, if you decide to travel, know the risks and follow WVU’s travel guidance.

Anyone traveling outside of West Virginia is subject to a five-day self-quarantine/self-monitoring period. This does not include commuting to work.

Faculty, staff and students also should avoid traveling to potential hotspots and high-risk locations (e.g., beaches, amusement parks, large in-person gatherings, such as concerts or sporting events, etc.). If you choose to travel to one of these locations, you should adhere to the five-day self-quarantine/self-monitoring period requirement.

If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 during travel or have a close contact who has been exposed during travel, stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days and avoid others as much as possible. You also should consider getting tested for COVID-19.

Due to the nature of their work, WVU clinical faculty, residents and fellows should continue to follow the WVU Medicine guidelines on travel.

Visit the CDC website for more information on reducing risks during holiday gatherings. Visit the Return to Campus website for latest travel guidance for students, faculty and staff.

Another great resource is the Guidance for Safe Holiday Celebrations and Holiday Travel, which is available on West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources website.