“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!” ~ Music by Robert Allen and Lyrics by Al Stillman
“My Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year. I would love to have it with my children, but…because of their concern for me and my age, have decided they’re not going to come home for Thanksgiving.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
The concept of “home for the holidays” is different this year. The CDC says we should stay at home this Thanksgiving and avoid celebrating in person. Just as my hero, Dr. Fauci, will be doing, my family will be celebrating together virtually, behind our respective smartphone and computer screens. We are close enough geographically, however, that we can still share food. So, our wonderful son-in-law will be picking up and delivering, contact free, side dishes and other accompaniments that we make to share with each other. We will partake of our Thanksgiving meals separately, but later visit virtually. And, as a huge fan of games, I have found a Thanksgiving-themed Bingo set to add a little on-line competition!
We are doing this because of the terrifying nationwide escalation of COVID-19 cases. We have been repeatedly cautioned by our medical experts that this could occur once autumn arrived, so it was not unexpected. But here we are again with hospitals and healthcare workers overwhelmed with patients, many of whom will not survive.
We also know that the dire situation in which we in the U.S. again find ourselves is largely the result of a leadership vacuum and inconsistent human behavior in mass observance of what we have now long known to be best practices. Since we first learned about the coronavirus, we have been encouraged to wash our hands frequently, use hand sanitizer and disinfect surfaces, refrain from touching our faces, social distance and quarantine when exposed to someone who is infected or if we experience symptoms ourselves. We have also been increasingly urged to wear face masks, but many people have disregarded this and other sound advice. As a result, we are again paying an awful price as COVID-19 cases increase at — excuse the expression — warp speed.
But there are glimmers of light at the end of this very dark tunnel: we have new national leadership and more than one vaccine is on the way.
Meanwhile, we are encouraged not to let our guard down at this critical juncture. We still have to get through the next several months and that means continuing to observe those best practices awhile longer to minimize the risks.
Risks Of College Students Going Home For The Holidays
Two major holiday risks that have been in the news are travel and college students. Medical experts advise generally to avoid travel and stay put for the holidays. Travel involves coming into contact with people who might be infected, might not be wearing masks or hand sanitizing and from whom you might not be able to distance yourself the requisite six feet.
As for college students, campuses have become hotbeds of COVID-19, accounting for more than 300,000 cases and counting. Some students have opted to remain on campus; others are forced to leave campuses that are closing. Students and their families should inform themselves of the policies and procedures at their respective colleges with regard to students who experience symptoms or have been exposed. Find out if there will be accommodations for students to quarantine on campus, or if they must return home. If the latter, try to organize a space separate from the rest of the family for the infected or exposed student.
Every family must plan for this and other occasions, because risk levels depend on individual situations. Dr. Fauci’s advice is: “It depends on the contacts in the home you’re going to. If you have an immunosuppressed person or a grandfather who’s 92 years old, the risk is great. If you’re going into a home with a healthy 45-year-old father and mother and a brother and sister in their teens, the chances of there being a problem are much less.”
Holidays In Historically Tough Times
There is no doubt that we are living through a difficult time; COVID-19 is just one of many challenges we face. And it’s a tough one. Many lives have been lost or altered forever. Jobs have been lost, and business have been forced to close. Medical, educational and economic woes have resulted in unimaginable pain and burdens. Difficulty in finding normal household items have rankled (and when have found them we often have had to pay a premium for them). And so many have worried whether proper medical help will be available for the usual non-COVID-related illnesses or accidents. All of this is on top of isolation and separation anxiety.
But then I think of the stories my beloved late mother told me about the two World Wars, the Korean War and the Great Depression she and others of her generation lived through. She told of the rationing, poverty, bread lines and long and hard work in factories. She shared heart-rending stories of Thanksgivings and Christmases when my brother and other GIs, nurses and others who were overseas serving could not get home for the holidays. And she told of the fears that those at home had — that they might never again seeing their spouses, children, friends and other loved ones who were fighting those horrific wars on the other sides of two oceans. And let’s not forget my generation’s Vietnam Conflict, and our 21st century young people serving ongoing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan that have separated loved ones for months and years.
Celebrating Together While Apart
Since last spring, we’ve made a lot sacrifices to stay safe and healthy. Now that we are within reach of vaccines that could end this scourge, it’s no time to drop the ball! Surely, if our parents and grandparents could survive separations due to wars, not to mention our own past separation sacrifices, we can manage to stay physically apart from family and friends for this holiday season. During this pandemic, we have greater control over protecting our loved ones — especially those who are elderly, immunosuppressed, pregnant or otherwise compromised — than we ever did during any wartime. Exercising that control is loving, patriotic and simply the right thing to do.
Think about the far-reaching effects of a seemingly innocent face-to-face gathering: Should one or more members of your in-person gathering become infected, they not only could become very ill, but they could infect others or occupy a hospital bed that winds up costing someone else their life. Caring about the impact of our decisions on others is the bedrock of the etiquette that maintains our civilized society and preserves our democracy.
Making the right decisions now will help to ensure that we and our loved ones live to enjoy the holidays of the future, and that is something for which we can be thankful.
Until next time,