2020 is the year to embrace being home for the holidays

Elise Fjelstad, Staff Writer

It is tiring to say, and probably even more so to hear it: but please stay home. As the holiday season is upon us, it’s incredibly tempting to want to get together with our loved ones especially if you’ve been apart since mid-March. Unfortunately, it’s no less important to limit contact in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In the U.S., the past few months have seen a dramatic spike in new daily cases. On Sept. 23, there were 41,551 new cases and 1,090 deaths, and Nov. 27 recorded 205,460 new cases and 1,412 deaths. In Wisconsin a total of 409,000 people have contracted COVID and 3,496 of them have died. For reference,183 people died from influenza in Wisconsin in 2019.

I’m not going to go into details about whether the virus is actually “that bad” if contracted, or if masks work, or the other various conspiracies flying around. Instead, I’ll assume that you understand the seriousness and deadliness of the disease.

The first objection I’ll probably receive is “what if everyone gets tested first?” This is an understandable point. However, a negative test is no guarantee that you won’t spread the virus to your family members. False negatives are a small but reasonable concern, and you have to 100% ensure that you don’t contract the virus between getting tested, receiving the result and going to your gathering.

Additionally, testing should be reserved for those who are showing symptoms, are immunocompromised and/or have been in contact with someone that has contracted the virus. If a large amount of people get tested right before a major holiday, they are using up a finite amount of resources that should be used for people who need them.

Masks do a great job of limiting the spread, especially for necessary tasks like grocery shopping, where you are also encouraged to maintain distance between people. There are two concerns in regard to family celebrations, though. The first is that getting together in a big group, even with masks on, poses a threat, especially crowded inside an enclosed space away from the winter cold. Celebrations also usually involve eating together, which requires physical contact with utensils for dishing out food and mask removal. Communal meals are a breeding ground for coronavirus.

There are plenty of ways people can think of to get around CDC recommended guidelines of staying home, but almost all of them come with a risk to yourself, your family, frontline workers or other ordinary people. Many hospitals are at or close to their capacity, and a surge of cases from the holidays is going to result in more hospitalizations. Ultimately, much more harm than good can come from refusing to stay home.

So what to do instead?

The obvious one is to organize a zoom call or other video chat. My family did this for Thanksgiving, where we ate our dinners in our respective households then joined a zoom to eat dessert together. It’s definitely not the same, but it helps to lighten the spirit by seeing each other’s faces, laughing and chatting.

One can still participate in classic holiday activities at home, like cozying up with a mug of hot cocoa to watch your favorite movie. Check out The Clarion staff’s picks if you need ideas! Baking cookies, decorating and doing crafts are also COVID friendly that can be done from home.

Driving around to look at other people’s decorations is another already established tradition that is safe and fun.

Or, you can find a new cheesy tradition to start with yourself or the people you live with. Playing board games or karaoke are perfectly viable options.

The holidays should be a time to cherish loved ones and spread love. So, show them, and countless others, that you care by not spreading germs. Less people affected now means less empty seats at future celebrations.