N.J. Department of Health guidelines for celebrating the holidays

When Santa visits Kale’s Nursery on Carter Road in Lawrenceville on weekends, he practices safe social distancing outdoors.

All holiday gatherings in New Jersey must comply with current indoor and outdoor limits. The current limits are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors as of Dec. 7.

Tree lightings, menorah lightings, and other holiday gatherings should be held outdoors, and must adhere to the outdoor gathering limits as well.

Parades, concerts, visits from Santa

Nix the parades

Holiday parades are discouraged. If holiday parades are organized, consider limiting in-person attendance. Have the parade live-streamed so the public can view it virtually. Parades must abide by the current limits on outdoor gatherings, and parades should observe social distancing and all participants should wear masks. Organizers should designate areas for spectators to view the parade with markings on the ground to facilitate social distancing.

To encourage social distancing, organizers should consider using open-top vehicles and floats instead of having people march in large groups. Parade organizers must maintain a list of all participants’ names and phone numbers, for possible contact tracing. This list shall be turned over to the local health department to assist with contact tracing.

Parade participants should not be permitted to throw items from their floats or cars to spectators. An alternative to a traditional Santa route is to have Santa ride around neighborhoods in an open-top vehicle so he can wave to spectators. Spectators should stay in their homes or within their yards. Neighborhoods should be notified of the time that Santa will arrive to avoid potential clustering of spectators in anticipation of the event. Santa should not throw or toss items from the vehicle.

Stay outside, Santa

People should consider alternatives to visiting Santa at indoor locations at malls, churches, or stores. Consider virtual visits or outdoor socially distanced visits with Santa. If malls and other indoor locations still chose to offer in-person visits with Santa, it should be a “touchless” experience. Santa, staff, and guests should practice social distancing and must wear cloth or disposable masks at all times. Guests under the age of two are not required to wear a mask.

Visits should be limited in time to reduce interactions between people. Reservations should be made in advance of in-person visits to discourage crowding around the Santa display area and to provide adequate time between guests for cleaning and sanitizing any high-touch surfaces. Guests should not arrive early for their appointment. Guests without reservations should be turned away and should not be permitted to take pictures. They should not be permitted to wait around to see if an opening becomes available.

Children should not be permitted to sit on Santa’s lap at any time. Santa can be stationed in a chair behind a plexiglass shield in an open area to allow for good airflow. If using a plexiglass shield, it should be compliant with fire safety and building code requirements and should be high enough to stand above the tallest seated person at the event. The organizer should ensure that there are markings on the floor at least 6 feet apart to promote social distancing in and around the Santa display area. Decorative enclosed structures such as Santa’s workshop are not recommended, as these limit airflow. Santa should not hand out food. Hand hygiene should be practiced regularly by both Santa and the staff. Hand sanitizer should be available at the Santa display area for staff and guests.

Santa, staff, and guests experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not participate in the event, no matter how much they want to do so.

Sing, sing a (virtual) song

Singing poses an increased risk for transmission of the COVID-19 virus. It is considered a high-risk activity. People should consider virtual signing events whenever possible. The virus may be transmitted via singing even if performers do not have symptoms. Large performances have the potential to be super spreader events.

Avoiding large gatherings, increasing the physical distance between performers and distance from the audience, and wearing masks are simple ways to protect performers and their audiences.

Performances must adhere to the latest limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Singing groups must be socially distanced from each other and from audiences during each performance. Singing groups that perform in public must be at least 10 feet away from others or have a physical barrier between them and the audience.

Outdoor performances are recommended over indoor performances. Performers and guests must wear cloth or disposable masks. Musicians playing brass or woodwind instruments that require use of their mouth must wear a mask when not actively playing their instruments.

Organizers of a scheduled singing event must conduct health checks for all live performers prior to the event. Any performer who is showing symptoms of COVID-19, who was exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, or who was told to isolate or quarantine,
should not be permitted to perform.

Locations for indoor performances should not include places where there are cases among high-risk or vulnerable populations such as long term care facilities. Performers may sing outdoors where they may be seen and heard from inside the facility.

Holiday travel

Non-essential travel outside of the home should be limited. Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transportation, and rest stops are all places where travelers can be exposed to COVID-19.

Stay home and connect with family and friends via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or Google Meetings.

Holiday markets

All vendors and organizers should observe social distancing and place markings on the ground to promote social distancing among shoppers. Masks must be worn by staff, sellers, and shoppers. Hand sanitizer should be readily available at multiple stations.

Winter holiday villages and flea markets should be held outdoors, when possible. Stores may set up tables and racks outdoors, weather permitting. Outdoor food stands must observe current outdoor dining guidance.

Private gatherings

Limiting family gatherings to include only immediate household members is the safest way to celebrate in-person. Using technology to live stream and visit with others outside of the immediate household is a safer alternative to attending in-person events, especially events that are held indoors.

If possible, limit indoor gatherings to people who live in the same
household for all seasonal holiday celebrations.

People who have been told to quarantine or isolate should not attend any gathering, regardless of whether it is held indoors or outdoors. They should complete the recommended quarantine period to protect others. This includes people who are waiting for test results.

If you decide to go against state health department recommendations and host others

Use single-use serving ware when possible. Otherwise, limit the number of people who touch common items such as serving utensils and barware. Make sure everyone washes their hands before preparing, serving, or eating food. Make hand sanitizer readily available for everyone.

Avoid buffets and self-serve drink stations. Use no-touch trash cans.

Seating arrangements should encourage social distancing by maintaining six feet between people who are not in the same household. Guests should wear masks when not eating and drinking. Clean commonly touched surfaces and areas often. Provide disinfecting wipes in the bathroom for guests to wipe down toilet handles, faucet knobs, and doorknobs. Make sure each bathroom has soap. Consider single-use hand towels instead of cloth towels in bathrooms.