Don’t Invite Coronavirus to Your Holidays

Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer MDVIP
By Dr. Andrea Klemes , MDVIP
November 9, 2020
Don't invite COVID-19 to your 2020 holiday gatherings. Here's how.

If you’re feeling like the pandemic will never end, you’re not alone. We’re now entering our ninth month since the pandemic officially began — nine months without a vacation, nine months without visits with our grandchildren or elderly parents, nine months without normalcy.

This consistent black cloud we’re under has consequences: a bloom in mental health issues, social isolation, constant and unhealthful stress. Now, there’s even a backlash against the measures that have kept many of us from catching the virus. It’s called COVID fatigue. Frustration, boredom, disappointment, depression, they’re driving all of us a little bit batty — me included.

Unfortunately, now is not the time to let down your guard. If you’ve been socially distancing, wearing your mask and washing your hands, keep doing it. If you’ve slacked, get back with the program. Why?

Cases are surging with new positive testing rates higher in November than at any other time in the pandemic. More than a dozen states have reported new spikes and health experts expect more surges before COVID-19 infections level off. While we are closer to vaccines and we are doing a better job treating the symptoms of severe COVID-19, catching the coronavirus can still be a very real threat to your health. There are long-term consequences to the infection we still don’t understand, and for some, a diagnosis is still very dangerous.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving and the holidays. You may have heard Dr. Anthony Fauci or other epidemiologists warn of upcoming spikes in transmission thanks to seasonal get-togethers. Family gatherings have been epicenters for infection clusters. Weddings and reunions have been super spreader events, but even small gatherings have led to multiple infections, especially among the most at-risk populations.

You might want to think about a different approach to Thanksgiving or your holiday gathering this year, especially if you’re in an area where the virus is spreading or if you have high-risk members of your family. I know we’re approaching things differently.

Traditionally, I cook for both my family and my husband’s family at Thanksgiving. My elderly mother flies in from New York and there’s lots of hugging, conversation and close contact, a combination that the coronavirus loves. So we’re not setting a spot at the table for this pandemic.

Instead, my mother is staying home and dining with my brother and his family. And when we gather at my house on that Thursday, we’ll do so with social distancing and households in mind. People who live together will sit together. We’ll also spread out — fortunately, we live in Florida where we can eat outside during late November. And we’ll keep the hugging to a minimum. My mother-in-law, the highest risk member of the family, will be there, but she’ll eat at the end of a table.

We'll take a similar approach for any other holiday gatherings, eschewing parties. 

If you have enough room, putting people who live together at separate tables is a good idea. If the weather is good outside, holding your gatherings in the open air is a safer option, too. Tailgating tents and chairs, folding tables, picnic pavilions all make for a different experience but a lower risk experience.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released new guidelines for family gatherings. You should check them out at the link above. But I’ll summarize:

• Celebrate virtually or with just the members of your household as it poses the lowest risk for spreading the virus.

• Keep track of what’s going on in your community before you get together; the higher the transmission rate, the higher the risk that one of your family members will bring an unwanted guest to the table.

• Remember, indoor gatherings pose a greater risk than outdoor gatherings — and poorly vented indoor spaces up that risk further.

• Think about the number of people you’re inviting. The more people at the gathering, the greater your risk of catching the illness.

• Consider your guests’ starting location. Are they traveling from an area experiencing widespread outbreaks?

• Finally, ask your guests if they comply with CDC recommendations. Do they wear masks or engage in risky behavior? And will they follow the rules once the wine begins to flow?

These are all important considerations as you plan your holidays. Use good judgement. You’ve spent nine months getting here. Don’t give up now.

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About the Author
Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer MDVIP
Dr. Andrea Klemes

Dr. Andrea Klemes is the Chief Medical Officer of MDVIP. She also serves as the executive and organizational leader of MDVIP’s Medical Advisory Board that supports quality and innovation in the delivery of the healthcare model drawing expertise from the affiliated physicians. Dr. Klemes oversees MDVIP’s impressive outcomes data and research including hospital utilization and readmission statistics, quality of disease management in the MDVIP network and the ability to identify high-risk patients and intervene early. She is instrumental in the adoption of the Electronic Health Record use in MDVIP-affiliated practices and the creation of the data warehouse. Dr. Klemes is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology and a fellow of the American College of Endocrinology. Dr. Klemes received her medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed an internal medicine residency at Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan, New York and an Endocrine and Metabolism Fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Prior to joining MDVIP, Dr. Klemes worked at Procter & Gamble in the areas of personal healthcare, women’s health and digestive wellness and served as North American Medical Director for bone health. She spent 10 years in private practice specializing in endocrinology and metabolism in Tallahassee, Florida. In addition, Dr. Klemes held leadership roles with the American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association and as Medical Director of the Diabetes Center in Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida, as well as Chief of the Department of Medicine at Tallahassee Community Hospital. She has been a consultant and frequent lecturer and has completed broad clinical research in diabetes and osteoporosis and published extensively.

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