Opinion: Holiday Travel and Parties Can Wait

people passing by black and brown wooden structures
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

COVID-19 has changed the way life has operated for the past nine months. One of the biggest changes due to the pandemic is that social distancing protocols across the country have made gatherings for the holidays difficult. The holiday season – including holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa – is a time for families to gather and share times celebrating love and life. 

This year, families have to face the choice to nix all family gatherings, keeping them within immediate households or risk traveling to see their loved ones. The average holiday party also holds the potential to become a super-spreader event, resulting in many sick individuals who are likely to spread the virus to others. This holiday season, I believe it is best to keep things small and close and leave the traveling and big parties for next year. 

While it isn’t fun to keep family away, doing so is really for the betterment of everyone. Some people are of the opinion that this may be the last holiday for some family members and that seeing family and holding gatherings is necessary. I don’t think this is necessarily true. What this type of mindset holds is that this virus is not preventable, which it is. The best prevention of getting sick with COVID-19, or giving it to someone else, is simply to not interact with others. 

However, the strain of social distancing is immense on many levels, including financially and on mental health. The “stay-at-home” option is not viable for many Americans, who must work to feed their families and thus place themselves at risk every day. Until sufficient aid is given, or society is able to operate without a lot of the workforce, there are going to be individuals that will be in more direct contact with COVID-19. Those of us fortunate enough to stay at home most of the time must do our part in stopping the spread. 

If you’re going to travel for the holidays, it is important to follow as closely as possible the local and national guidelines for traveling. Right now, the best option is to stay home unless it is absolutely essential that you travel. If you do travel, getting a test, quarantining at home for two weeks before the travel and wearing a mask while traveling on public transit are all good options. If these are not options available to you, then you might want to reconsider large travel. 

If your travel only requires you to use a car for your destination, the same protocols can apply, although you don’t need to worry about being on a cramped plane with strangers. Even with car travel, you might need to stop for gas or food, which still means you will have contact with people. The only way to avoid the virus completely is to completely eliminate your contact with other people outside of your home, which is extremely difficult for many individuals. 

If you aren’t traveling for the holiday season but are considering having a large gathering, I would suggest that you just don’t do so. According to the CDC, if you’re hosting a gathering, it should be outside with social distancing and masks in place. The cold weather presents a problem to this, as it is difficult to stay outside for too long. This means gatherings likely will move indoors, where you will be in close contact with others. The Clay County Public Health Department recommends keeping a contact list of less than 10 people that you can easily identify in the instance of an outbreak. If you go to a party, this rule can easily not apply to just 10 individuals. 

If you are going to see people that you don’t regularly see, and you aren’t sure about your exposure or theirs, you should really be social distancing and wearing a mask. If you choose not to do these things, then you must be comfortable accepting the risk. For myself, there is a limited circle of people who I will not wear a mask around, including my roommates, family and boyfriend – who because of living circumstances make it difficult to social distance and mask myself constantly. It can be done, but this is the risk I have accepted. 

Telling others that you don’t want to see them because you’re uncomfortable can be difficult. It can be difficult to have conversations with members of your household who don’t have the same views you do on the pandemic that you’re not comfortable with their actions. These types of conversations need to happen while the pandemic is occurring. You need to make it clear that if someone is attending large gatherings or traveling, you may not be able to see them for a few weeks. It’s not personal, it’s not political, it’s safety. 

While I personally will not be traveling or attending large gatherings this holiday season, if you’re going to, you need to follow guidelines and assume the risk. You also need to accept that some in your circle will not want to see you after these activities. And that’s okay. It is important to be kind and respectful of those around you, and you can do so by following guidelines. Your actions during this pandemic do not just affect you, but those around you. It is important to be selfless during this time in order to benefit yourself, your household and your loved ones.

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