Baylor health experts endorse holiday Zooms

Puckett, Miss., junior, Gabby Kennedy hangs hand sanitizer on Christmas Tree as an ode to COVID-19 and its impact on 2020 and Christmas. Many families and friends will have to get creative with how they spend time together while also protecting themselves from COVID-19. Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

The holiday season usually entails mass traveling to visit friends and family and gathering indoors together. Thanks to COVID-19, celebrating the holidays with extended family and friends will be a challenge this season.

Baylor Medical Director Dr. Sharon Stern said there are many creative ways to celebrate with family without meeting in-person.

“Zoom, pre-recorded videos of singing or special messages for each other, sending letters or having phone calls,” Stern said. “Some people are planning on cooking the same dishes or eating at the same time and comparing successes or failures. Some families celebrate by singing certain songs or saying certain prayers or telling certain stories, and these can be done on FaceTime or Zoom. The list goes on and on.”

Stern said she recommends people do what she and her family will do, which will be mostly via video call and eating outside when her daughter comes to visit.

“It is difficult for everyone,” Stern said. “We have to be as safe as possible and realize that this will not last forever. We will likely call our extended family and FaceTime our other family members. We will try our best to make it special even though we cannot be together like we usually are. 2020 — weirdest year ever.”

Assistant Professor of Public Health Dr. Emily Smith said on her Facebook page if people do plan on traveling, they need to quarantine for 14 days and get tested before leaving and when they arrive.

“Being super cautious right now … is really important to protect your family members,” Smith said on her Facebook page. “So, be really vigilant in your mask-wearing, distancing, saying no to get-togethers/parties, don’t eat indoors or go to bars, etc.”

Some families may choose to gather in person, but Stern said there is no foolproof way to guarantee safety whether families and friends are meeting inside or outside.

“Opening windows does help, as does having air purifiers and increasing the ventilation in general,” Stern said. “The problem with this virus is that any person can be asymptomatic but infected and infectious and have no idea that they may be endangering others.”

Baylor is offering free testing before students go home for the holidays.

“Remember that a negative test is not a license to end other preventative measures such as mask wearing and physical distancing. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing,” The Baylor COVID-19 Health Management Team said in an announcement. “In addition to testing before travel, health officials urge students and employees to get tested after they complete their travel.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an ample amount of information on how to stay safe during the holiday season. The CDC suggests to make sure there is a plan in place for COVID-19 safety if you are hosting or attending an event or gathering.

“Holiday celebrations will likely need to be different this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC stated. “Avoid activities that are higher risk for spread. Consider fun alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading COVID-19.”