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By Dr. Peter J. Plantes

November 23, 2020

The end-of-year holiday season in 2020 promises to be as complicated as the rest of this year has been. We are facing a fast rise in the prevalence of positive COVID-19 viral tests and active cases throughout much of the United States. We also have a superimposed emerging flu season.  Every family and individual should carefully consider their holiday plans. To remain “thankful and safe” throughout the holiday season, you must reduce the chance that you might initiate a super-spreader event. 

Tips for Safe Holidays

  • Maximize your use of preventive measures: wear masks, physically distance from others, socialize in outdoor settings versus indoors, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands frequently.
  • Keep your distance and wear a mask even when at home and with family and friends. Each family member from a different location introduces independent exposures into the room, risking the health of parents and grandparents.
  • Upgrade the mask types used in the family. Switch from bandana or cloth masks to the multilayered surgical masks that are now generally available at pharmacies or online. If you have a source, secure a box of N95 masks and distribute them as gifts. Use them when indoors especially. These masks protect the person wearing the N95 as well as others nearby.
  • Consider virtual events in sharing Thanksgiving rather than that quick trip home through busy airports or shared carpools home from a university.
  • Set up the big holiday feast to minimize risk. Consider eating outside rather than inside. Space out the seating and have those who are already exposed to each other by living together sit next to each other. 
  • Rethink car travel. Traveling in a car is safer than air travel except if you are mixing several folks with different daily exposure in the same car. Cars do not have ventilation filters that clear the COVID-19 virus. This is not the year for a 3- or 4-hour drive home in a crammed carpool. Take the flight and be extra careful in the airport instead. Better yet, do a virtual online visit, save money, and reduce everyone’s risk.
  • Consider getting a screening viral test before traveling so you do not import active COVID-19 into the family. 
  • Get a flu vaccine shot before you go home or visit friends. Importing flu will complicate anyone’s life, especially if they also contract COVID-19 at the same time. 
  • If you do go back home, remember that you bring the new risk of infection while there back to your regular home location, workplace, or university.

Don’t be a bad house guest and bring the pandemic into the home of family or friends. This is a very unusual year, so take these suggestions seriously. By this time next year, the progress with an effective vaccine promises to allow more holiday joy in 2021. Let’s make sure we are all still here and healthy to experience it. 


About the Author

Peter J. Plantes, M.D. has three decades of experience creating service and delivery solutions that enhance marketplace success and clinical performance for clinical practice groups, academic faculty group practices, hospitals, health systems, and health care organizations. His success stems from his ability to blend and synergize clinical knowledge, operational expertise, financial performance, and collaborative methodology with his deep commitment to serve patients and improve the health of the community. Dr. Plantes has served in CEO & Physician Executive roles for a number of large healthcare clinical delivery networks including regional community networks, academic practices, national hospital networks, international health systems (Chile, Colombia),  and corporate managed care/HMO networks.

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