Covid makes Thanksgiving tough as households battle to vary 2020 trip plans
The Dabb-Hawkins family Facebook group has been in a state of flurry for a few weeks. The big question: how do you deal with the holidays this year?
Some family members went to great lengths to meet in person for Thanksgiving in October. The other half of the family wanted to make plans for a Zoom dinner instead, according to Rachel Dabb Hawkins. A recent surge in cases in Utah, where she lives, ended the debate. Everyone has now agreed to a virtual meeting.
Across the country, families like her decide how, when, and where to meet for the holiday season – if at all. It’s difficult and at times awkward as not everyone has the same level of risk tolerance or willingness to follow public health guidelines. Surveys have shown that gender, education, and political party preference play a role in an individual’s decision to take the coronavirus seriously, including wearing a mask.
“It is important to have these conversations with family members and set expectations now,” said Dr. Steven Pergam, an infectious disease physician and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Infectious disease experts say it is important that individuals do their part during this holiday season to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This can mean declining an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas party, which can be uncomfortable. If families, with or without air travel, gather in large numbers across the country, it could make the outbreak worse. Given the spikes in many states, especially the Midwest, the situation is already very worrying and the holidays could accelerate the spread of the virus.
Pergam admits that this year Americans must do their best to assess the risk and do their part to mitigate it. The guidelines are not always clear about what people should do in the given circumstances, and there is room for interpretation.
The more people gather and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The greatest risk of exposure is at large face-to-face gatherings, where people are generally unable to keep 6 feet apart. According to the CDC, medium-sized face-to-face gatherings where people can be at least 3 meters apart and where participants come from outside the local area pose a “higher risk of exposure”.
The agency recommends requiring guests who are not in your immediate household to wear masks unless they are eating or drinking and to stay at least 10 feet away.
“Encourage guests not to sing or shout, especially indoors. Keep the music level low so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard,” said the CDC’s guide to Monday published holiday gatherings. “Encourage participants to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” or use hand sanitizer.
Pergam’s advice for small indoor gatherings is that guests must wear masks at all times, which would require separate meals. This may feel strange, but it can go a long way in protecting others.
All of these can be challenging, he warns, especially when it comes to alcohol.
In general, being outdoors whenever possible is a better option, and the smaller the group, the better.
Air travel also puts you at a higher risk for Covid, especially for longer flights. A recent study found that the nearly 60 confirmed cases in Ireland were linked to an international flight.
For those boarding an airplane, Pergam recommends wearing a mask and not removing it at the airport or on the flight. Eating at home beforehand may help. He also suggests bringing hand sanitizer.
Other doctors say the holidays force people to balance their individual desires with the collective interest. Being together is important to their mental health for many people, especially those who have felt isolated at home for months. But that could endanger family members and even a community, depending on the size of the group.
Dr. Wendy Dean, a Washington, DC-based health care professional, said many patients ask her about safe ways they could get together on vacation.
She recommends outdoor gatherings wherever possible, masked and physically distant, but realizes that this is not always feasible. In colder climates, staying outside for long periods of time is not a novice.
Because of this, families may choose to form more intimate pods and agree to certain precautions in advance, such as B. to lie at home for 10 days or to be tested. And some may want to consider a virtual event like the Dabb Hawkins as a way to interact with a larger group.
Ultimately, Dean said, “each family unit must weigh both the risk of passing the virus on to others and the risk to themselves if they become infected with it.”