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Chocolate Easter bunnies with masks are on display at a cake shop in northern Athens on April 8, 2020. (Associated Press) Chocolate Easter bunnies with masks are on display at a cake shop in northern Athens on April 8, 2020. (Associated Press)

Chocolate Easter bunnies with masks are on display at a cake shop in northern Athens on April 8, 2020. (Associated Press)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman April 9, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Health officials recommend against traveling and gathering in large groups for the holidays.  

  • Holiday gatherings should be limited to those already currently living or staying together in a household.

Stay home, stop the spread of COVID-19 — except on holidays? Not exactly.

Health experts caution against making plans for Passover, Easter and Ramadan and other holidays amid the pandemic, including local family visits.

Stay-at-home regulations vary depending on the state and city you live in, but there are currently only a handful of states in the U.S. that aren’t under statewide orders.

If you’re in a less hard-hit area and plan to celebrate outside your home, officials still recommend taking extreme caution and strongly advise against gathering in large groups or attending religious services. 

"Now is not a good time for mass gatherings of any kind," said David Hamer, Boston University professor of global health and medicine. "Attending religious services is not a good idea. Large numbers of people in spaces with no or little ventilation, even with masks on, as they don’t filter everything out, and with common surfaces and areas being touched — the risk of spread is high. Services should be held remotely. "

Big trips and large meetings should be off the table no matter where you are. Seeing immediate family in areas with fewer cases might be all right under some circumstances. But even then, there are concerns.

The best thing to do, experts say, is to limit your holiday gatherings to those who are already currently living or staying in your household.

What if your family lives close by? Hamer said that limited contact might be OK if family members have been staying home and no one has had any outside contact and everyone is feeling fine. But it’s still not the safest bet.

For example, if your family is in an area with little to no cases, but you come from an area that has more, you may be putting them at risk — especially if a family member has a compromised immune system. You could also be carrying the virus without exhibiting symptoms and expose vulnerable family members to the virus without knowing it.

"I think that with any family gatherings for Passover, Easter or Ramadan, people need to be really cautious," Hamer said. "Local travel is feasible, but it’s not advised, and many states, even ones with fewer cases, have recommendations against unnecessary movements of people."

RELATED: How states are enforcing coronavirus stay-at-home orders

"I worry if a younger person with mild or no symptoms goes to visit their grandmother and grandfather or someone who is high risk, they’ll expose them."

Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, told PolitiFact that anyone thinking about traveling needs to understand what their individual risk could be, and said anyone with symptoms should "definitely" not be around people, especially those with higher risks of complications. 

"If you do decide to go and visit people, I would try to keep the gathering small and practice social distancing if you can and good hygiene and frequent hand-washing," Adalja said.

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