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 virus will never end, you’re not alone. We’re now entering our ninth month since the pandemic officially began —nine months without normalcy.

This consistent black cloud we’re under has consequences: a boom in mental health issues, social isolation and constant 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 — many of us are experiencing some of this — me included. Unfortunately, now is not the time to let down your guard. If you’ve been social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands, keep doing so. If you’ve slacked, get back with the program. Why?

Cases are surging with new positive test rates higher in November than at any other time during 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 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 can be very dangerous.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving and the holidays. You may have heard Dr. Fauci or other epidemiologists warn of upcoming spikes in transmission due to seasonal get-togethers. Gatherings have been epicenters for infection clusters. Weddings and reunions have been super-spreader events, and 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 gatherings 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. But we certainly didn’t set a spot at the table for the virus.

Instead, my mother stayed home and spent the day with my brother and his family. And when we gathered at my house, we did so with social distancing and households in mind. Fortunately, we live in Florida where we can eat outside. We were spread out, and people who live together sat together. My mother-in-law, the highest-risk member of the family, ate at the end of a long table. And we kept the hugging to a minimum. 

We plan to take a similar approach for other holiday gatherings and will avoid parties. If you are hosting a get-together, here’s my tips. Hold your gathering outside if possible.

Tailgating tents and chairs, folding tables, picnic pavilions all make for a different experience but a lower-risk experience. And try putting people who live together at the same table.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released new guidelines for gatherings. Check them out at the link above. Here’s a summary:

  • Celebrate virtually or with just the members of your household as it poses the lowest risk for spreading the virus. The more people at a gathering, the greater the risk. 
  • Keep track of what’s going on in your community before host or attend a get together. The higher the transmission rate, the higher the chance that one of your guests will bring an unwanted guest — the virus.
  • Consider your guests’ starting location. Are they traveling from an area experiencing widespread outbreaks?
  • Remember, indoor gatherings, particularly in poorly vented indoor spaces, pose a greater risk than outdoor gatherings. 
  • Finally, ask your guests if they comply with CDC recommendations. Will they follow those rules at the gathering?

These are all important considerations as you plan your holidays. We want to help you safely enjoy this special time of year. 

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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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