Give the Gift of Safety This Holiday Season

December 14, 2020

By Amber Schmidtke, PH.D., Medical Educator and Science Communicator

Much like everything else in 2020, the pandemic is going to change the way we gather and celebrate the winter holidays. Remember that the virus is only concerned with the biology and physics of reaching the next human to infect for its own survival. But the virus has a weakness— it cannot move on its own. Instead, it depends on humans who gather, providing the virus with new opportunities to spread. When you think like a virus, you see that humans can love someone very much and still give them a potentially deadly infection. Here are some suggestions to reduce risk of disease transmission for the upcoming holidays.

Get Your Flu Shot

A person can be infected with influenza and COVID-19 at the same time and each can be fatal on its own. While we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, the good news is that we already have a vaccine for influenza.

Celebrate With Your Household or Quarantine Pod Only

Gather with distant friends and family virtually. This is the safest option, especially for those who are aged 65+ or who have underlying medical conditions.

If You Plan to Gather With People From Outside Your Household/Pod, Keep Your Gatherings Small, Spending Time Outside While Keeping Socially Distant

Minimize time spent indoors and wear a mask while doing so. Try to self-quarantine for the two weeks leading up to the event and do not attend if you show any symptoms, even if you think your symptoms are just seasonal allergies or the common cold. No one prevention strategy is perfect, so it is important to layer these strategies to avoid disease transmission. This option may be well-suited for those who are younger and generally healthy but want to avoid hosting a super-spreader event.

Living through this historic event is not fun. As much as the holidays do not feel right without all our family present, we need to consider whether it is more important to share this holiday now, or to celebrate the holidays together in the years to come. Use this opportunity to create new traditions and memories, including ways to involve distant friends and relatives virtually. This pandemic will end, hopefully sooner rather than later, with the earliest vaccines expected in 2021. It is my hope that we can gather with fewer obstacles in the years to come.

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