The Holidays and COVID-19
The holidays are just around the corner and we are ready to bring on the joy, the laughter, the fun times, good memories and time with the ones we love most. However, many people are concerned about how to approach the holidays this year with COVID-19. Should you fly to see family? Should you participate in any outdoor holiday event? Should you even see our distant or local family members?
In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in cases locally and across the nation. The combination of cold weather, larger gatherings, cold and flu season and the holidays are all reason for this rise.
“When colder weather starts and we move indoors where there is less space between us, there’s more opportunity to spread the virus,” said Dr. Christopher Penn, an infectious disease physician with LMH Health. “When we think about the traveling that will happen around the holidays, we can anticipate an accelerated spread between communities. We’re on a rise right now, so that’s a concern.”
It is as important now to continue practicing all the safe practices as it was towards the beginning of this year, especially rolling into the winter months. However, there are still ways to be jolly and safe this year.
“Thanksgiving, a holiday known for gathering, is right around the corner,” Dr. Penn said. “The first thing to plan on is keeping the attendees to people that are within your own personal bubble. Otherwise, remaining six feet apart and opening a window to increase ventilation is a good idea. Remember to think about the location. The bigger the room, the better.”
Dr. Penn also mentioned that the longer the duration you’re going to be with other people, the greater the likelihood infection could be passed. Think about the attendees and their behavior before coming to the gathering. You want to feel safe. If you do not, it is ok to think about yourself and take the appropriate action.
Though COVID-19 has shown little mercy on even the youngest of age groups, it is important to acknowledge that those 65 and older are still considered in the at-risk category.
“As age increases, so does the likelihood of developing severe illness,” Dr. Penn said. “When it comes to a family member whose health you may be concerned about, everyone needs to make their own decision. Having been through this personally, it’s a difficult decision to limit yourself or your family during the holidays but you need to decide if this must be done now.”
Dr. Penn said if you must see them, wearing a mask, hand hygiene and maintaining 6 feet of distance is important. Of course, do not attend a family function if you’re sick and, where you can, explore ways to visit virtually.
“This can be challenging,” he acknowledged. “But these are unprecedented times. We need to keep doing the things that are keeping us safe as the pathway to a vaccination continues to progress.”
When it comes to travelling this season, Dr. Penn’s best advice is to limit it where you can, especially air travel.
“Besides the plane, traveling also concerns me because of the lines and high volume of people, especially around the holidays,” he said. “Do not travel if you are sick. If you must travel, make sure you are very strictly following all safety precautions – hand hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing. It is better to travel by car, but also best if those in your car are in your inner circle. If they are not, ask yourself what you will do to protect yourselves, whether it’s wearing a mask or opening a window.”
If you are hosting a family gathering at your home, continue to think about your health and safety first. Your health and safety could ultimately impact others. Dr. Penn said that having a meal with those in your inner bubble is completely ok and encouraged. However, if you are inviting others in who are not in your circle be cautious because you may not know their full whereabouts or who they have been around.
“Make sure those who are preparing the meal are using good hygiene when they’re cooking,” he said. “Bringing dishes with you is a good idea. Be mindful that kitchens can get hot and sweaty and masks get uncomfortable.”
Dr. Penn said often times we can think we are safe, however the virus knows no boundaries. You can easily come into contact unknowingly. This holiday may be a good time to take care of yourself, rather than rushing around to everyone’s home, consider a relaxing day at home.
“When we put ourselves out there and visit other people, I think about the people that depend on me,” he said. “If I’m told tomorrow that I have to quarantine for 14 days, what effect will that have on them? There are big implications if you get a call and are told that you’re a close contact. Honor those around you by taking care of yourself.”