Celebrating the holidays with COVID-19 safety measures. (Photo Credit Pixabay.com)

Home for the holidays: creative interactions for the holiday season mid-pandemic

Now that you’re home for the holidays, finding ways to connect can be challenging. Ideas for safely spending time with family and friends exist, though studies have shown that it’s best to be apart. 

As of Dec. 15, case numbers have reached over 203,797 in Washington state, and it’s suggested families try to slow the spread by spending the holiday season apart. Washington has seen 12,649 hospitalizations and 2,918 deaths thus far, which translates to a 1.4% death rate according to the Washington State Department of Health.

With the influx of COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Pierce County reverted back to phase two of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, where restrictions were modified to prohibit indoor gatherings until January. Retail and grocery stores are limited to 25% capacity, while restaurants, gyms and other public facilities are closed for indoor services.

The usual methods of staying in touch with people via Zoom or Facetime allow contact with people who’re staying at home, though an interesting idea to try is hosting a virtual party for family or friend reunions.

Other internet-based activities include online multiplayer versions of board games like Monopoly or the Game of Life, and card games like Uno, which are available to play on various gaming platforms. An alternative idea for connecting with family or friends is Virtual Reality, where people can experience VR Chat coupled with online games played by users across the globe through the technology of VR equipment.

Maintaining a closely connected network of people may feel difficult, despite the available technology to assist us. To solve this challenge, people can set up an outdoor and socially distanced space for gatherings of no more than five visitors from another household. 

Adopting other forms of communication like writing a letter to relatives or mailing a postcard offers a glimpse of intimacy and thoughtfulness within a relationship. This would help to sustain connections with relatives or friends outside of the current technology-focused world. Additionally, sending someone flowers through a local florist not only stimulates the economy,  it’s symbolic of kind thoughts without creating immediate contact.

For those who’re resourceful with gifting, handmade items are especially meaningful when they’re paired with a holiday card. Arts and crafts like making face masks or shields benefit relatives and the surrounding community by providing protection, further preventing the virus’ spread.

When attending a holiday gathering, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bringing your own food, beverages, plastic kitchenware and utensils to minimize contact. Safely storing your mask while eating or drinking and avoiding the areas where food is being prepared are two more guidelines to follow.

Sharing meals with guests and prolonging social contact creates greater risk, so limiting the amount of exposure time to 2 hours with masks is necessary for slowing the spread, especially when people can be asymptomatic and test negative. Going for a walk around the neighborhood with family or gathering under pop-up canopies on the patio are some alternatives.

When serving food to guests, following a plan to separate food items and avoid communal bowls or utensils is preferred. Besides setting ground rules for a holiday season gathering and disinfecting surfaces regularly, an easy conversation to have with guests to ensure safety is to ask them if they’ve had symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath within the last two weeks.

The latest travel advisory was issued by Gov. Inslee on Nov. 13, which details two guidelines for all non-essential travel centered around the holidays. People who arrive in Washington state, including returning residents, should self-quarantine for two weeks and limit interactions to their household. It’s advised that non-essential travel should be avoided as this would reduce the risk of virus transmission across state lines, according to the Office of the Governor.

Those who plan to travel for the holidays should be mindful of these guidelines, even when traveling to another county. It’s also necessary for visitors from different states to follow the proper procedures, especially when they’re from states which experienced a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

The pandemic can cause feelings of disunity and distress for anyone currently working in person, though working from home has its flaws as people feel confined to their homes. To actively distract the mind and maintain a good mindset, encourage people to go outside to take walks, hikes or ride a bicycle. Outdoor activities can be done with people outside of your household as well, given that proper safety precautions are in place.

Events this year have brought change and uncertainty to the world, combined with the contribution of government lockdown restrictions. The economy, independent households, small businesses and large businesses alike have sustained large hits, which is why everyday people should do what they can to help the nation stay afloat.

If people choose to be around relatives, they should abide by guidelines out of respect for our state’s public health and economic well-being. The more we limit social interactions even before the mass distribution of vaccines, the faster we’ll see case numbers drop—eventually allowing our world to return to normal operations.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Elissa Blankenship

Home for the holidays: creative interactions for the holiday season mid-pandemic

by Elissa Blankenship time to read: 3 min