Tips for how to have a happy Christmas despite Covid
IT'S set to be a Christmas like no other with social distancing; face masks; rapid testing, quarantine, and isolation set to take the shine off traditional family gatherings.
The official advice from the Centers for Disease Control is to stay home during the holidays, wear a mask whenever you’re around people from outside your household, and maintain proper hand hygiene, in a bid to protect yourself from Covid.
"Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread," the CDC's advice reads.
But Christmas celebrations – while they may be different this year – and the festive spirit has not been completely canceled, despite official guidelines warning to avoid everything from singing to sharing food.
According to the CDC, some of the best ways to reduce the risk of infection if attending a gathering over the holiday season is to have conversations with the host ahead of time to understand expectations for celebrating together; bring your own food, cutlery and utensils; and wear a mask indoors and outdoors.
It's also recommended that hosts limit the number of guests, provide spare masks, sanitizer, and hold the gathering outside if possible,
Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine told The Sun that "everyone should try to quarantine beforehand and continue to take precautions throughout the visit".
For those planning to stay put, experts recommend decorating or creating a "winter holiday scene" for family photos at home.
Driving or walking around your neighborhood – from a safe distance – to look at decorations and holiday light displays is another way to drum up some festive cheer, according to the CDC.
When it comes to purchasing gifts for loved ones, health experts suggest people avoid crowded stores and instead buy gifts online.
“Exchange gifts with loved ones via mail or contactless drop-offs — bonus points if you purchase items from small, independent businesses,” the University of Pennsylvania Health System said on its blog.
After gifts arrive, relatives who don’t live in the same household can still see their loved one’s reactions. The CDC suggests families can hold virtual calls to open presents together.
The holidays can also be be a good time to experiment with new recipes and make treats that safely can be delivered to others, according to the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
There are opportunities to celebrate the season outside the home, too.
“Go sledding or ice skating, or take a wintry walk or hike,” the blog post said. “Remember to stay masked and distanced.”
The CDC suggests people who live in areas that get snow “hold a snowman or snow angel contest with neighbors”.
Top US diseases expert Anthony Fauci has repeatedly warned of a “surge upon a surge” of Covid-19 cases following Thanksgiving and heading into Christmas.
The month of December could be a time of “precarious risk” as some people begin shopping for Christmas gifts in stores and host ill-advised parties for New Year’s Eve, he said last week.
“That should be sometime probably next week or a week and a half,” Fauci told The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit in relation to when the US could expect “the full brunt” from the virus off the back of Thanksgiving.
“And then we’re going to enter into the Christmas season, again with more traveling and with more congregating at family and social gatherings. So we’re in for a very challenging period,” Fauci said.
Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, is one of many Twitter users who have previously shunned the Centers for Disease Control's advice and safety tips.
"Our federal overlords say ‘no singing’ and ‘no shouting’ on Thanksgiving,” he wrote alongside a retweet of a CDC list featuring Thanksgiving safety tips.
"We shall sing praise to the Lord and shout the glory He brings."
Fauci, who has been asked by President-elect Joe Biden to be his Covid chief medical adviser, told CNN his concerns for Christmas were the same as his concerns for Thanksgiving, "only this may be even more compounded because it's a longer holiday".
He said nobody wanted to modify or shut down the holiday season, but "we're at a very critical time… we've got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us".
According to Fauci, his holiday plans have “dramatically changed” this year as a result of the pandemic.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, I’m not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters,” Fauci said during CBS News’ the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit Monday.
Fauci has three adult children with his wife, Christine Grady: Jennifer, 34, Megan, 31 and Alison, 28. They are “geographically scattered throughout the country,” so traveling and congregating together is unsafe, he said. The family also skipped Thanksgiving celebrations last month.
The Sun has contacted Dr Fauci for comment but a spokesperson said he was unavailable.
The US has recorded more than 14.7 million cases of infection in the pandemic so far and 282,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University research, both global highs.
Last week, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb said US deaths could be near 400,000 by the end of January, adding: "As bad as things are right now, they're going to get a lot worse."
Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator, criticized the Trump administration for flouting guidelines and peddling "myths" about the pandemic.
The worsening outbreak has spurred some state and city leaders to implement more restrictions to prevent overcrowding their intensive care units.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state would impose a stay-at-home order on regions if their hospitals’ available ICU capacity fell below 15percent. Last week, Fauci said that parts of the country could see more temporary restrictions like those in California.
New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo has called on retired doctors and nurses to return to work and said if the number of patients in hospital did not decrease in five days, indoor dining in New York City would stop.
But New York did reopen some of its schools last Monday, allowing some in-person instruction at younger ages – a move guided by figures showing lower Covid positivity rates in schools.
However, indoor dining was banned in New York for a second time during the pandemic, as of Monday this week.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said the state had witnessed a post-Thanksgiving surge, saying infections "took off like a rocket".
New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have also announced record one-day rises in new cases.
“Once people die, they’re gone from our lives forever — and there’s no way to measure that impact at all,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing Monday.
“There’s no value you really can place on a person’s husband or daughter or their friend or their loved one. And every death is a tragedy, particularly those deaths that, in some ways, if we were all better at doing our part, we could be preventing right now.”
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