The Art of Showing up for a Holiday During a Pandemic
Nov 02, 2020
If there’s one thing we know about COVID-19, it’s that long holiday weekends lead to COVID-19 spikes. COVID-19 cases spiked after the Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day holidays. Winter holidays could lead to even bigger spikes, as people gather indoors during the cold weather. COVID-19 fatigue is setting in as well. My patients are tired of wearing masks, tired of being alone, tired of restricting their lives. It’s important to start the conversation early this year, so we can honor family traditions while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and celebrating holidays in a responsible, socially-distanced way.
Two factors, in particular, play a large role in virus spread: the number of people to whom you are exposed and the duration of time you are exposed. Holiday gatherings potentially increase both of these.
Prevention Strategies Include:
Socially distance 6 feet apart, wear a mask and wash hands.
Encourage out-of-towners to stay home this year. Travel has been strongly linked to viral spread.
Limit the size of gatherings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not list a specific number of attendees for gatherings, but groups should be as small as possible.
Make gatherings shorter this year. Decreased exposure time is important.
Try to spend some time outdoors in the fresh air or open a few windows. Small enclosed spaces pose a much greater risk.
When I think about the meaning of Thanksgiving and other family holidays, showing up is one of the ways we give thanks. For family members who have difficulty traveling or who may be struggling with health issues, reaching out and connecting with them is especially important. Holidays are a time when more medically fragile people may travel quite a distance to see loved ones they haven’t seen in a long time. But how do we “show up” when we can’t be there in-person? Here are some ideas to show you care while protecting loved ones from getting sick.
Make the Rounds
Find out the name of your loved ones’ favorite restaurant and set up a doorstep delivery or make their favorite meal and deliver it to them. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, so make it extra special and send a family photo with the meal. If you don’t want to do a meal, think about making a special care package full of other goodies and delivering it to their doorstep.
Change Up the Cookie Swap
Cookie swaps are a long-standing tradition with some families. This year, think about doing a recipe swap instead. Older family members love digging out old cherished recipes to share with younger family members. This could even be done by video calling.
Drive-through light exhibits and other festive activities are starting to pop up. Be on the lookout for these via social media or your local news sources, as they offer a fun and safe outlet for kids and grownups alike. If your family lives locally, you can all caravan in separate cars.
Distance a Gift Exchange
Organize an online gift exchange with co-workers or family members. There are now several online gift exchange generators, so the names are still kept hidden. The most fun part? Arrange a group video call where everyone opens their gifts together, so you can still see the look of surprise on everyone’s face when they unwrap their presents.
Hold a Virtual Family Game Night
Some games lend themselves especially well to video calls. For example, Pictionary, Bingo and Ugly Sweater Contests can be done from the safety and security of home. There are a lot of ideas online about other games to play as well.
Reach Out to Others
Even as many of us are sad this year that holiday celebrations won’t be “normal,” keeping those who have extra challenges in mind and even doing something to help them can make us feel better. Sending holiday cards to members of the Armed Forces or nursing homes, donating new toys to children’s organizations (make sure to check drop off schedules, as many have changed their guidelines due to the pandemic), and cooking a meal for an elderly neighbor are just some of the many ideas that can bring your family closer together while working on a mission to help others.
Dr. Emily is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus.
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