As the winter holiday season comes into full force, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to influence plans and traditions from previous years. In order to celebrate the holidays while keeping both yourself and others healthy, the Center for Disease Control released a set of guidelines detailing the safest ways to carry out holiday gatherings.
In the past, the winter holidays served as a time for family and friends from near and far to come together and celebrate with each other. The majority of schools close for a two-week winter break, which encompasses both Christmas and New Year’s.
During this extended rest time, many families choose to travel either locally, domestically or internationally. Others use this time to go on holiday cruises, to take advantage of the mountains during the height of the ski season or to rent a house somewhere exotic. It’s a time when college students come back home, relatives from across the country reunite and old friends get together.
Just like in past years, the holidays this year serve the same purpose: a time of celebration with the ones you love. Taking into consideration the safety guidelines put in place by the pandemic, many have made the responsible decision to adapt their original holiday plans to better fit the circumstances of our current situation.
With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continuing to rise across the United States, the CDC claims the safest way to celebrate this holiday season is to stay at home and to observe the festivities with the people you live with.
Any travel greatly increases the chances of an individual contracting and passing COVID-19 to others. The risk of getting COVID-19 through holiday travels depends on a few factors such as the length of the trip, the number of stops it takes to get there and whether or not you follow appropriate guidelines. These precautions include wearing a facial covering, refraining from rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth and staying at least six feet away from others.
Travelers who plan to get to their final destination through the use of busses, rest stops, trains and airports are all at an increased risk of being exposed to the virus. Any form of public transportation in which individuals could come into close contact with strangers should be eliminated if possible.
One could argue that anything we do carries an inherent risk. This is certainly true as traveling to your local supermarket to pick up eggs increases the chance of becoming sick with the virus. However, travel is unnecessary. You can no longer complain about how you wish for things to get better when you are actively making things worse. If we want life to assume normalcy again, we have to start making hard, but necessary choices in our daily lives.
Traveling by plane requires standing in potentially long security lines and crowded airport terminals. Worse off, traveling during the holiday season is the busiest time of the year. The Transportation Security Administration estimated that two years ago, during the peak Christmas and New Year’s travel days (between December 19 and January 5 for 2018) about 41 million passengers traveled through security screening checkpoints nationwide, a year-over-year increase of 6 percent.
Luckily, once seated on the plane, germs do not spread as easily due to the constant circulation of air. Nonetheless, wearing a mask and sitting as far away from other passengers will help keep travelers safe.
Another form of travel, driving, has fewer risks than the other forms of travel that require public contact. Despite coming across a reduced number of people, road trips still pose risks through stopping at gas stations to refuel, using the bathroom at a rest stop or picking up lunch at a roadside cafe.
On the bright side, there are still many ways to have an enjoyable holiday season while limiting outside contact. Some of these ideas include driving around to see holiday lights, building gingerbread houses or hosting a virtual holiday party with family and friends from the comfort of your own home. You can even partake in a Secret Santa event by dropping gifts at someone’s doorstep, limiting contact and leaving them to wonder who had them for the exchange.
While many crave a vacation, traveling will only worsen our already astronomically high COVID-19 numbers. As we book trips and pack our luggage, towering over us like a dark storm cloud on a beach day are the deaths of over 1.5 million people. This year, let’s give the gift of responsibility and not lose sight of the real meaning behind the holiday season.