Handling the holiday season while considering COVID-19

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Photo credit: Farrah Fasse

Infectious disease specialist Mia Taormina says that one of the biggest risks of gathering for the holidays is eating around a table with family or friends outside of your household. She doesn’t advise anyone to gather at all, however, if some still do insist on getting together, she asserts the importance of taking extra precaution around eating dinner together. “…People need to be eating in every room in the house, basically not gathered around a table, having your own plate and your TV tray and whatnot to stay away from each other,” Taormina said. “So you’re not, you know, breathing into each other’s faces while you’re eating and drinking, and that’s why I do not encourage eating around a table at all at this time.”

By Farrah Fasse and Kaitlyn Barr

As the cold-weathered winter months approach, there has been a concerning surge in cases of COVID-19, with Michigan currently having over 400,000 coronavirus cases, according to the New York Times. Experts, including infectious disease specialist Mia Taormina, have been urging Americans to be diligent and safe as the holiday season progresses and people gather indoors. 

“The problem is that the surge is completely related to us moving indoors,” Taormina said. “Outside, socially distanced, we had a nice summer. We were able, at times, to kind of feel like things were back to normal again. What happened is that the weather changed and all the restrictions lessened, people moved indoors and we know that indoors, without a mask remains the highest risk event.” 

Taormina says that families wanting to gather for the holidays should reconsider their plans or delay their celebration until cases have fallen and it is safer to do so. However, if families insist on gathering, she urges them to limit the gatherers to 10 people from two households in order to mitigate any spread, as well as being masked the entire time, and eating in separate rooms from other friends or family members.

Spanish teacher Jennifer Spears is one of the many who is changing her usual Christmas plans in order to keep her family safe from COVID-19. In past years, Spears has had a large gathering with family members, however, this year, she will be staying home with her household members in order to keep her others, some of whom have serious health issues, safe. She is concerned about families who haven’t been taking many precautions gathering for the holidays and possibly spreading it to others. 

“I just wish people would be willing to make the tough sacrifices for a couple more months,” Spears said. “So that people like my parents can make (it) through healthy, and all of us can make it through healthy, and hopefully by the summer be back to something more normal.”

Senior Emma Sanderson has been cautious regarding COVID-19 even outside of the holidays, as to not endanger her family members or get anyone sick. She has taken precautions such as only seeing a few people. 

Along with Spears, Sanderson usually has a large family gathering for Christmas, however, she has had to change her plans for the holidays in order to adhere to coronavirus health guidelines.

“For Thanksgiving, it was just me, my mom, my dad, and my aunt and my cousin,” Sanderson said. “We were planning the same for Christmas because we can’t really do anything else.” 

Sanderson, along with Spears and Taormina, feels that current technologies like Zoom allow for connection with family members during a pandemic and allow a way for safe holiday celebration. 

Taormina, who works in a hospital that is preparing for the possibility of reaching capacity of beds due to coronavirus cases, is urging everyone to be smart and considerate when making plans for the holidays. She is beseeching everyone to understand the potentially catastrophic effects of a seemingly innocent family gathering. 

“There’s still time to rethink your plans. There are you know, still people that plan on flying and getting on planes and going and visiting family this week,” Taormina said. “It’s just not advised. And it’s something that can potentially have consequences that are deadly.”