- Staying home this holiday is an investment in health for future holidays
- Break large problems down into individual steps
This year is weird. There, I said it. Nothing has been normal, and as the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to climb, normal doesn’t seem to be coming back in the near future. Many of us had hoped the pandemic would be under control by the fall and winter holidays so we could see family and friends in a normal-ish way. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case.
All recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health have been clear: Just stay home.
Although this is disappointing, it doesn’t change the nature of the holidays. We have adjusted and readjusted our work, home, school, family and social lives all year long, and we can do it again to ensure our own safety and the safety of those we love (and those we don’t even know).
Recent statistics have highlighted the lag time between exposures, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19.
Based on the average time frame, those who are exposed during the holidays could greatly increase the death toll around Christmas time. We’re seeing this play out as daily death rates continue to climb nationally following the Thanksgiving holiday. Those sickened during the Christmas holiday are likely to continue or worsen this already awful trend and lead to increased death rates in the new year.
The CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health are strongly urging people not to travel for the holidays to avoid spreading COVID-19 across the country. With this in mind, it is important to consider that staying home and away from those you love this holiday season could be the kindest thing you ever do for them, and they for you.
How can I stay safe this holiday season?
The following people should not participate in any in-person holiday events to avoid the risk of exposing others:
- Anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus and should be isolating, even if they do not have symptoms.
- Anyone recently exposed to someone diagnosed with coronavirus/COVID-19 and is in their quarantine period, even if they have tested negative during that time.
- Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which may include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or is otherwise feeling unwell.
What can I do instead of a big extended family dinner?
There are lots of ways to have a safe and happy holiday season this year, including:
- Having a small dinner with your own household. You can decorate and play games or make it very low-key.
- Hosting a virtual dinner with extended family and friends through Zoom or other video technology. Zoom even waived its 40-minute limit for free users during Thanksgiving.
- Even if holiday shopping together is a tradition, consider shopping online. You can even combine online shopping and Zooming by sharing your screen with a friend or family member to shop together.
- Look for online, outdoor, or drive-in options for worship services.
Some “medium risk” activities include:
- Having a small group (fewer than 10 people) outdoor dinner with family and friends while maintaining physical distance of at least six feet and wearing cloth face coverings (masks). If you are meeting with anyone outside your household, masking and physical distancing are important precautions.
- Going to an outdoor holiday activity such as a Christmas tree lot or farm, walk-through holiday light display or other similar large outdoor venue where mask use is enforced and people can maintain physical distance.
- In-person shopping at times when stores are not busy, masking is enforced and physical distance can be maintained.
The Arkansas Department of Health recommends avoiding these high-risk activities:
- Taking an elderly relative out of a nursing facility, hospital, or retirement community.
- Traveling outside the local area.
- In-person shopping during any peak times.
- Large indoor gatherings with people outside your household, including with other family or friends.
- Attending other indoor events like parties, movies, etc. where many people from many households are likely to attend.
It’s not just about this year
Even though it can be difficult to think about doing the holidays differently this year, it only takes one sick person at a gathering where precautions are not taken or are lax to spread the virus among your entire family, friend group, church, neighborhood, or whoever is present. It may help to think about it this way: It’s not just about this one holiday, it’s about all the Thanksgivings, Christmases, and birthdays to come. If even one person dies or their quality of life is severely impacted by this year’s gathering, you will be reminded of it every year going forward.
Stay safe. Stay home.
The Cooperative Extension Service has many resources to help individuals and families cope with stress. Be sure to contact your county extension office or visit https://www.uaex.edu/health-living/personal-family-well-being/.
To learn more about extension and research programs in Arkansas, visit https://division.uaex.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.