CHARLES TOWN – Dr. Terrence Reidy, Jefferson County Health Department health officer, doesn’t want to be the Thanksgiving Day turkey or the Christmas grinch.

Nevertheless, Reidy said people should consider putting off gatherings with extended family members and friends for this year’s upcoming holidays until next spring or summer. Delayed holiday celebrations should be safer when a coronavirus vaccine might be widely available and the virus outbreak could be under greater control, he said.

“People want to do events like before,” he said. “But it’s still not a good idea.”

Reidy said people shouldn’t plan on taking a holiday break from the coronavirus safety precautions of physical distancing and mask-wearing that health officials have been advocating since March. The indoor celebrations during the winter months make physical distancing for safe social gatherings more challenging, he said.

“That going to be a little hard to do that with 20 people in the dining room for Thanksgiving,” he said.

For that reason, Reidy said he hopes relatives and friends offer extra grace and understanding to those who turn down or turn away from holiday celebrations this season.

“There’s a little bit of this peer pressure” to accept invitations, he acknowledged. “It’s not perceived as that, but that’s what it is.”  

Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response coordinator, also recommendations that individuals and families reconsider their holiday plans to lift and size-down their social gatherings.

Those who do get together for the holidays outside of daily social groups should get tested for a COVID-19 infection beforehand, Marsh said. Check the West Virginia Health Department’s website for free testing sites now frequently offered.

Then think carefully about how restrict gatherings to essential core family or group members, Marsh advised. Still wear face coverings and distance physically, he said. And take special precautions to protect older family members and those at risk for severe medical complications if they were to become infected with the virus.

With change comes opportunity—in this case, for breaking repetitive holiday season traditions in place of new memories and routines, Reidy said. Even before the coronavirus epidemic, he said, more people and families were taking a break from the hectic tradition of heavy holiday socializing.

This year’s epidemic gives people a legitimate excuse to avoid the crowded traveling, the extra gift buying, the excessive hosting preparations, Reidy said. Think of avoiding those conversations with boorish uncles or brothers-in-law.

“Some people might find it less stressful to just not have it,” he said.

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