At the end of a long, tragic year, marked by stress and sacrifice, most of us yearn for the cozy familiarity of holiday traditions and lifelong rituals, the general merriment of celebratory gatherings, and the opportunity to interact with loved ones. Lamentably, the sorts of traditional holiday gatherings that would satisfy our craving for normalcy are extremely high risk propositions in the COVID-19 era. Small, intimate gatherings of close family and friends are just as likely to encourage the transmission of COVID-19 as mass gatherings. Indeed, this is a primary driver of transmission in America at this very moment, and yet we don’t hear about it as frequently because three infections resulting from a four person dinner party is not an enticing news story. The truth is that COVID-19 spreads readily whenever individuals from separate households gather, particularly indoors, when strict adherence to social distancing and mask wearing is not observed. And people whom we love are not safe to be around just because we love them, because they’ve recently tested negative, because they are careful to avoid COVID-19 in their daily lives, or because they don’t appear or feel sick.
This fall and winter, the pandemic weary will let their guards down and travel, connect with family members or friends whom they do not live with, gather indoors because it is cold outside, and remove their masks to enjoy the comforting flavors of holiday foods and beverages. They will hug, laugh, and be jolly. Stealthy as ever, SARS-CoV2 will take advantage of an easy opportunity to infect new hosts. People will get sick. For many thousands of families across this great nation, joyous holiday memories will be marred by tragedy when a case of COVID-19 transmitted across the table during turkey dinner results in the death of someone beloved. The risks are enormous.
My humble, heartfelt advice to all is that, this year, you strongly consider eschewing traditional holiday gatherings with family and friends.
Deerfield residents are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 by virtue of age alone. This holiday season, show your love for your family and friends by protecting yourself and staying safe so that you can be together again once the threat of COVID-19 passes (and it will).
Here are just a few alternatives to traditional holiday gatherings that you might consider:
• Have a small, special holiday dinner at home, with only people who live in your household.
• Prepare traditional family recipes to share with your neighbors, and deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
• Bake holiday treats and send them to your loved ones.
• Watch sports events, parades, and movies from home. Host a virtual watch party with your loved ones.
• Host or join a virtual holiday celebration. A Zoom Christmas may not be ideal, but it can bring loved ones together. There are a myriad of ways to make virtual gatherings fun, memorable, and meaningful.
Of course, the decision to forgo traditional holiday gatherings is deeply personal. To ensure that risks you’ve elected to accept do not impact the health and safety of your neighbors, quarantining at home would be advisable.
TIP: If masks are removed or are not being worn correctly, risk for transmission is unmitigated and it is time to leave.
Taryn Tindall, RN, on behalf of the Deerfield Leadership Team