We look forward all year to the holidays we celebrate in December as a time to gather with loved ones. Unfortunately, in 2020, gathering with family and friends could make coronavirus one of the worst gifts we exchange with one another. Caregivers in San Diego, the elderly in home care, and all the rest of us must give careful thought to how we celebrate the holiday this year.
San Diego County, the State of California, and the Centers for Disease Control all strongly advise that the best way to spend the holidays in 2020 is at home with the people already in your household. Southern California’s ICU bed capacity is officially at zero percent across the region as of December 21st, and the daily infection rate and the death toll are rising steadily. The vaccine offers a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not going to help this holiday season.
The state expects to reach 100,000 hospitalized people across all conditions by the end of the month, which will push California’s hospitals into crisis care mode. This means they will be forced to ration care for all incoming patients and conditions, from coronavirus to heart attacks to cancer. In other words, without any extra capacity, they will have to decide who they can and cannot treat, who lives or dies. This is called triage, like in M.A.S.H. or a disaster area. The statistics and projections are grim, yes, but we can act positively by getting serious about preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
This means that we all may have to spend Christmas differently than we want to, for the good of everyone. Some commonsense precautions include not gathering with members of other households, especially indoors. Avoid carnivals, festivals, live entertainment, and crowded pedestrian light displays. Even ice-skating rinks are high risk as they host many guests from different households in an enclosed area where it is difficult to maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet. Remember that people in home care in San Diego will not have access to the vaccine for several weeks.
So what can San Diegans do to celebrate the holidays? The San Diego County website recommends:
- “Shopping online for holiday gifts or gift cards and engaging in online activities.
- Visiting drive-through or drive-by events or reverse parades where the participants do not leave their car.
- Sending a pre-made dinner or ingredients through online food delivery services and eating together virtually.
- Supporting charity meal activities and donating food to drive-through pantries, local food drives, or online food bank fundraisers in accordance with our Charitable Meals Guidance.
- Planning holiday- or winter-themed movie nights and home decorating with your household.
- Getting a flu shot to protect yourself and minimize complications from the flu or COVID-19 viruses.”
If you are meeting up with family or friends in person this season, the CDC has some guidelines and tips for attending an in-person event as safely as possible.
- First, continue to wear a mask unless you’re actively chewing, wash your hands frequently, and stay 6 feet away from people who are not in your household!
- Second, choose outdoor (and well-ventilated) settings over indoor settings, bring your own food and utensils. Don’t participate in potlucks and avoid singing or shouting.
- Finally, no handshakes, hugs or petting the dog!
If you’re planning to host an in-person event, the CDC has some practical advice for how to protect your guests and yourself.
We can navigate the holiday season safely by respecting the power of the virus while finding ways to spend time with the ones we love in a different way this year. Happy Holidays!