Friday, November 20, 2020

Why the Holidays Are So Dangerous During This Pandemic

Remember the early days of the pandemic? The danger of getting COVID-19 was defined as geographic--"hotspots" such as major cities and travel centers. Don't go to those places was the advice, and it was good advice. Then the advice was to not go to "super-spreader" events such as sports or entertainment events because the odds were that some individuals in those events would be sick and would infect others. This was and is still also good advice. 

Associated with super-spreader events were gathering spots such as bars, where alcohol consumption and a lot of social interaction created ripe circumstances for virus transmission. Included in this "gathering spot" designation were also weddings and religious gatherings. Time has allowed for enough empirical data to be gathered to verify that there are places we should avoid in order to be safe, and although the news is filled with blatant examples of people not following the advice of medical professionals, the truth is that many people are following the advice of the medical profession--they are not traveling out of their local area, they are wearing masks in public, and they are not frequenting public watering holes such as pubs.

We're getting pretty good at taking precautions--and I use the pronoun "we" deliberately. We have been careful and are careful. We are even aware of "covid fatigue" and are watching our behavior in order not to let down. The environment has changed, though, and even though I don't want to write these words, the pandemic environment is now more dangerous. Why?

  • The virus is now everywhere. To say "I'm avoiding hotspots, super-spreader events, and public gathering spots, so I'm safe" is not true. From the least populated to highly populated locations, all are getting hammered.
  • The main cause of spread is from asymptomatic individuals. 
  • The main cause of infection is through the air, and with colder weather, more people are spending more time inside.
  • Pandemic fatigue is real and insidious . . . and the holidays are upon us.
Fact-gathering now indicates that the most likely way someone will be infected with this novel coronavirus is by a family member who is contagious, asymptomatic, and who conscientiously continues the cautious behavior of past months and unknowingly passes the virus on to a family member. Let me phrase this another way--that asymptomatic carrier just might be you . . . or me.

Extended family celebrations during the upcoming Thanksgiving season, the seasonal religious holidays, and New Year's celebrations are now considered high risk activities this winter season, where families will be sharing food and time together . . . and COVID-19. That's the main concern of medical professionals, and why they are asking families to cancel or amend holiday get-togethers. We have to be careful that we don't love ourselves to death. If we can get through this winter, hopefully next spring and summer will be safer. 

Have a central meeting place, such as a family member's porch. Swap pies and main dishes. Then go home and eat alone or with the family members you live with. Wear masks, keep your distance, wash your hands. Or meet and chat, wearing masks and being careful. Then go home to eat. Eating together at the family table, not wearing masks--this is now considered one of the highest level risks for being infected with this virus. The best advice is old advice from early in this pandemic. Assume you are asymptomatic and have the active virus. Would you go to a family get-together and not wear a mask? 

Here are two links to useful articles about how to plan a safe holiday celebration: 

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