No Place Like Home for the Holidays - Genesis Health System

Published on December 22, 2020

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Fear, shock, devastation, rising death tolls, masks requirements and reluctance to wear them, and suggestions of only very limited public gatherings.

This isn’t only a description of the relentless global COVID-19 crisis.

We have been here more than once before as a country.

Consider Christmas 1918 and the Spanish Flu pandemic. The pandemic caused more than double the number of U.S. deaths of COVID-19 in a much less populated country with limited scientific guidance. The major health organizations didn’t exist yet.

The advice at the time included avoiding the traditional kiss under the mistletoe and not shopping for gifts in stores.

Christmas 1941 arrived with darkness and terror less than three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Americans were only beginning to grasp what sacrifices would be required to fight and win World War II.

We learn from history. There were messages from both historic crises that apply to the present health crisis.

Mobilization to fight a common, deadly foe, relentlessness and compassion are messages from past national crises.

“We are becoming drained after months of responding to this virus but we must be resolute,’’ said Kurt Andersen, M.D., Genesis senior vice president of physician operations and chief medical officer. “We may be reluctant to give up holiday gatherings and traditions but if we can get through this holiday season safely without a family member or friend getting very sick with this virus, the next holiday season will be treasured and much more normal or, possibly a new, healthier normal.

“If we follow the standard precautions and get the vaccine when it is our turn, this holiday season will hopefully become a memory and experience we survived together. In the meantime, we have to continue to be vigilant with our response this year.’’

One of the traditions of the holidays are New Year resolutions. Dr. Andersen said resolutions this year should focus on getting well as a country.

“Safe, effective vaccines are on the way but they are only effective if you are willing to be vaccinated,’’ Dr. Andersen said. “Unlike the Spanish Flu pandemic, there is more and better science about vaccines.

“Our caregivers in hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities are understandably tired and maybe feel overwhelmed.

“Everyone can show they care by staying home this holiday season and following the precautions we all know.’’
Mariah Carey doesn’t sing about a COVID-19 Christmas and a New Year Vaccine. Bing Crosby sang about holiday gatherings in person, not via Zoom calls.

There is nothing festive about a Zoom Christmas, but this year, virtual visits with family and friends may be the healthy alternative to in-person events and parties.

“For just this holiday season, we are asking people to continue to wear masks, avoid face-to-face interaction when possible, stay away for large public gatherings, practice good hand hygiene and be vaccinated when it is available to you,’’ Dr. Andersen said.

There is one enjoyable tip for the holidays. Get outside, which is now considered safer than close contact indoors.

“Take a long walk, walk the dog, discover the many trails available in the region. Not only will you be lowering your risk of being infected by the virus, you will be limiting the spread and you’ll be healthier from the exercise,’’ Andersen said.

The holidays are not canceled. They may just look different this year so we can renew traditions safely next year. Stay healthy and get a vaccination when it is available.