Dr. Thomas Russo talks holiday gathering safety during the pandemic


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– After months of being apart, family and friends might be tempted to gather for the holidays.

Whether you share a meal, open up some gifts or toast the new year, it’s all part of the holiday tradition.

What’s the best advice for holiday gatherings? Same as thanksgiving says Dr. Thomas Russo.

“We really can’t have gatherings that cross households or social bubbles.”

Dr. Thomas Russo, Infectious Disease Expert

According to the centers for disease control and prevention, indoor gatherings pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.

Dr. Russo, an infectious disease expert with UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine, agrees.

“Obviously, celebrating the holidays is likely to involve food and drink when masks are down indoors, and our homes really have poor ventilation. They’re designed to keep the heat in. That’s a risky situation for acquiring infection.”

Dr. Thomas Russo, Infectious Disease Expert

Length of time is also a consideration.

The longer the gathering, the more risk of getting infected.


“If you wanted to get together to open some gifts under the tree, I think that would be okay if you invite people in and everyone’s wearing masks at all times, people are distancing and no food and drink is involved. And no one drops masks. And you sort of make the visit as short as possible.”

Dr. Thomas Russo, Infectious Disease Expert

Dr. Russo says risk is only minimized under that scenario.

The safest thing to do, he says, especially if you’re vulnerable, is to not gather outside your household or social bubble.

“People at work don’t count. Friends in different houses don’t count. Those are really outside of your social bubble.”

Dr. Thomas Russo, Infectious Disease Expert

And if you insist on attending a holiday gathering, experts recommend keeping a safe distance, wear a mask, encourage proper hygiene and promote safety around food and drinks.

But remember this…

“Even with masks and distancing one can’t drive that risk down to zero.”

Dr. Thomas Russo, Infectious Disease Expert

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