Preparing for a different kind of holiday to protect your family from COVID-19

Eufemia Didonato

It can be easy to forget the guidelines, like social distancing and wearing masks while with family but Kanter says evidence shows it’s all very important

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Experts are worried the holidays will lead to even more COVID-19 cases and are urging people to make adjustments to the way they celebrate. Dr. Joe Kanter with the Louisiana Dept. of Health says if families don’t make changes to their traditions, it could add fuel to the fire as the state battles a third wave of the virus.

“The risk is high for families,” said Kanter at a press conference in Jefferson Parish last week. “There is just no way to sugar coat that.”

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 971 COVID-19 and 24 deaths in the state since March 22nd. The current total death count is 6,284. The total number of cases reported to the state is 221,160.  To further prevent the spread, the CDC is warning against people traveling to large holiday gatherings this year. Instead, in order to celebrate the holidays safely, experts say you should consider a virtual gathering. We spoke to residents at City Park Monday night and many, like Sam Hendricks, say they plan to go fully online this year.

“We usually have family gatherings but we aren’t doing it this year,” said Hendricks. “Probably do a Zoom call or Facetime. We will have some sort of contact to give thanks but it’s just going to be over the phone.”

Health officials say if you do host a gathering keep it small, do it outside and consider a modified potluck where each household brings and eats their own food. Be especially mindful of high-risk individuals. People who are elderly are more likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19.

 Kelly Sherlock says she is taking all sorts of precautions to make sure the few guests she has at her Thanksgiving are safe. 

“We are still having it but we are separating everyone in different tables based on their homes,” said Sherlock. “We are going to do temperature checks and everyone wears masks.”

It can be easy to forget the guidelines, like social distancing and wearing masks while with friends and family but Kanter says evidence shows it’s all very important.

“What we’ve seen from contact tracing data over the past couple months is an increase in the number of cases tied back to informal small gatherings,” said Kanter. “What we think is going on is that when people are with friends and family they feel more comfortable and they let their guard down.”

While the need for loved ones feels greater than ever this year — health leaders say making sacrifices this holiday season will help us avoid potentially permanent consequences.

 “It’s not traditional but we can manage it,” said DeKlerk Richardson, who is spending his first Thanksgiving alone. “You have to display resilience because we are resilient people.”

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