Tis the season…to think about the safety of family gatherings

With the pandemic still raging on, keep these tips in mind to celebrate safely

Nia Rolle, Opinions Staff Writer

Yes, it is that time of year again: the holidays are approaching. And it is especially important to make sure we all celebrate safely this holiday season with our families and friends. 

We always forward to celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Years holiday for various reasons. But most importantly, it is to spend this time with family that you rarely see throughout the year and cherish those moments while they last. The chance to have any family gathering this year, whether it be for Thanksgiving or Christmas, will be especially important and extremely vital after the past years, which have been hectic for almost everyone. 

For me, the holiday season doesn’t seem the same anymore and I’m sure anyone else could agree with me. Of course, I look forward to seeing all my family in one place and cherishing the time I spend with them, especially around the holidays where mostly everyone is together and we are all catching up on what has happened the past year and what things are to come for the future. Gift-giving and delicious food at dinner is a major plus to the holidays that we all can admit we enjoy every time the holidays roll around. 

Last year, the word of advice was to not go out and travel for the holidays, but now it is encouraged to get the vaccine and go out celebrating safely, among others. But this year, compared to last year, it is focused around being safe and making more memories where everyone is together. The best thing to do this holiday season is to keep safe around close family members and keep a distance from those who are unvaccinated, or those you don’t see on a regular basis. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines recently for families to consider how they will be celebrating the holidays this year, whether it be in-person or virtual. The CDC does recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible; hence, the vaccine will help get you to celebrate even more holidays with family members and friends. According to wane.com, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated in a recent interview, “If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving [and] Christmas with your family and close friends.” 

If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving [and] Christmas with your family and close friends.

— Dr. Fauci

In the past few weeks, COVID cases have spiked and it is raising concerns for the upcoming holiday get-togethers. Last year showed us that traveling and holiday gatherings increased the risk of transmission from one another. On November 16, according to NJ.com, “New Jersey…reported another 1,147 COVID-19 cases and four confirmed deaths as the state’s daily positive tests have once again started to increase after two months of steady declines.” This goes to show that cases will only start to rise once the holidays come around because we will all be going out, traveling, shopping and in close contact with our friends and family. 

Furthermore, according to an article from NPR.org, U.S COVID cases are on the surge again as the holidays approach. As of last month, the US “is now averaging more than 83,000 cases a day – about a 14% increase compared to a week ago, and 12% more than two weeks ago.” There is extreme emphasis on being as safe as possible this holiday season, even if that means wearing a mask indoors with family and friends to reduce the risk of spreading the virus but also making sure you have your vaccinations, flu shots and booster shots so we can all come together and have a great holiday with everyone together. 

In a COVID debriefing last month, Governor Phil Murphy stated, “If you’re in doubt, get the darn booster [COVID-19 Vaccine booster shot]. We want to make this as simple as possible. [The holidays are] bearing down on us. Getting as many people boosted [and vaccinated] between now and the holidays is really important.” He is strongly encouraging every adult able and willing to go out and get the booster shot even if you are unsure about your eligibility. Governors, lawmakers, state officials and more are urging citizens to get the COVID vaccine and or the booster shot and be proactive about their health, especially around the holidays when you are in large gatherings with groups of people at one time. 

Clearly, it is heavily emphasized to get the booster shots and get vaccinated, and even getting the flu shot will help prevent a breakout of COVID-19 cases over the holidays, and it will decrease the risk of spreading it to others or them spreading it to you. I personally have gotten vaccinated and I feel more confident going out and celebrating with my family and friends for the holidays but I think I would definitely feel safer if everyone in my family was vaccinated and or had the booster shot so we all can celebrate safely and reduce the risk of any contact from COVID. 

A number of different health organizations, both public and private, have made entire campaigns to encourage safety around the holidays. CHOP.edu, the official website of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, lists healthy tips for celebrating the holidays safely this year, and specifically states that, “it’s important that we remain vigilant in our efforts to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, particularly as colder weather drives more people indoors where the virus is more likely to spread.” The guidelines echo the advice of the CDC including items like “Set guidelines for in-person gatherings” and “Travel thoughtfully, masks are mandatory everywhere in airports.”

Unfortunately, sometimes the best option is to stay home. There might be too many risks in the way of you gathering with friends and family safely this Thanksgiving and Christmas, so to reduce any increase in transmission of COVID, staying home might be the best option for those unvaccinated and feeling uneasy about large gatherings around this time. So the best advice this holiday season is to just think twice before you make your holiday plans and plan accordingly and carefully to reduce a spike in COVID cases for the holidays. 

These tips and guidelines are a perfect way to sit down and consider whether you should be traveling for the holidays, or keeping it small and hosting a small family dinner, or completely going virtual this holiday season and doing a Zoom or Google Meet Thanksgiving or Christmas. Anything is possible, but most importantly, enjoy this time with your family and friends and enjoy peace and relaxation for a while, but also stay safe as possible because time is essential but your health is very essential as well. 

These are trying times. When we come out of it together, we’ll have a better world and a cleaner heart.