What's The Risk of Volunteering Around the Holidays?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 8:26 AM, Nov 27, 2020

As the holiday season begins, you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19 as you make plans to celebrate. 

We asked the experts, what’s the risk of volunteering around the holidays?

Their take: volunteering is medium risk.

"If you are volunteering at an indoor facility where there is not a capacity to social distance, that risk is going to be higher than if you're volunteering in a capacity where everyone is masked and you have more distance. Or, even better, if you're able to volunteer by doing things that are outside or not in as large of a group," Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, infectious disease specialist at Nebraska Medicine, said.

"If you volunteer maybe in a food line, what are the precautions that are going to be taken to keep you and the users of that service safe? Are masks going to be required? Is social distancing going to be something that is thought of and planned? Or will there be other precautions as well?" Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said.  


"If the organization that you're volunteering with is taking some precautions, making sure everyone is masking. Hand sanitizer, hand washing availability. I think that goes a long way. And also, just configuring how you're doing it. Volunteering is probably going to help if they have separate stations, whether it's a food pantry or a food packing or distribution thing. As long as you can separate people out a little bit, I think that can be done," Dr. Irfan Hafiz, infectious disease physician and Northwest Region chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine, said. 

For more answers on what is low, medium, or high risk, visit