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‘Tis The Season to Celebrate. Here’s How to Do It Safely

It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but this year it doesn’t really feel like it. With many of us hunkered down at home, some having lost jobs, others having lost friends and family members to COVID-19 or other illnesses, it’s tempting to give this holiday season a miss. But it’s important to find joy and meaning in the midst of this dark winter — and carrying on with favorite holiday traditions can help. NPR checked in with medical researchers to figure out how risky our favorite customs are, and highlight ways we can all celebrate more safely.

1. Holiday shopping

  • Avoid: Crowded indoor shops and shipping centers
  • Go for: Curbside pickup or outdoor holiday markets

Online shopping and shipping directly to the recipient is the safest because you do not have to leave your home, experts say. It may be too late to have gifts delivered by Dec. 25, but ordering from local shops by phone or online and picking up curbside is still much safer than browsing through stores.

If you must go inside a store, consider the risk, says epidemiologist Mercedes Carnethon, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Avoid it entirely “if the store is crowded, poorly ventilated or if people aren’t complying with mask wearing orders” she says.

If you do go into a store to pick out a gift, minimize the time you spend there. And try to choose a store that’s on the smallish side “where you can get in and out a bit easier and quicker,” Malani says.

2. Visiting Santa

  • Avoid: In-person visits
  • Go for: Virtual hangs, or write a North Pole letter

All our experts agree: Going to the mall, waiting in line and sitting on Santa’s lap is just a high-risk, unrealistic activity this year.

The good news is that Santa has “transformed his whole workshop to become virtual,” says Malani.  Some stores offer reservations for a personalized Zoom visit with Santa.

Some local, independent Santas are getting creative online, too. Take Dreezy Claus, who calls himself “Chicago’s Black Santa.” Andre Russell says he tries to make the virtual experience just as engaging to let kids know that “Santa has not forgotten about them.” He wants kids to know the magic still exists and even Santa is adapting to the pandemic.

And other nontraditional Santa visits are popping up, says psychologist Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, including places that let kids drop a note in Santa’s bag, instead of sitting on his lap. But again, this is best only if in an outside setting, physically distanced and wearing a mask.

3. Parties and celebratory meals

  • Avoid: Indoor gatherings that mix households
  • Go for: Outdoor socializing and real connections online

Shared dinners and parties at Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are often the core of traditional celebrations. But this year, any indoor gathering with people outside your household is really not safe, says Dr. Judy Guzman-Cottrill, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and health care epidemiologist at Oregon Health and Science University.

Tough as it might be, Guzman-Cottrill urges us all to postpone parties and family gatherings for the next several months.

4. Caroling

  • Avoid: Indoor singing
  • Go for: Caroling outdoors or sharing musical cheer ‘Say Anything style’ — with a boombox

Singing in large groups has a high risk of viral transmission, especially when singers are unmasked, says Guzman-Cottrill. “However, I think a household could safely go caroling in their neighborhood if the family stays together and strolls through the neighborhood sticking to the sidewalks, walkways and driveways.”

While singing is an activity that has been shown to increase airborne particles, doing it outdoors “reduces risk of transmission significantly,” as does keeping face masks on, says Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician and public health researcher at Harvard Medical School.

Excerpted from ‘Tis The Season To Celebrate. Here’s How To Do It Safely” on NPR. Read five more tips for a safe holiday season in the full article online.

Source: NPR | Tis The Season To Celebrate. Here’s How To Do It Safely, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/17/946700176/tis-the-season-to-celebrate-heres-how-to-do-it-safely | © 2020 npr

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