Celebrating the Holidays Safely
When it comes to parties, Latinos like them big, long and full of food and drinks. That’s a good thing — except if there’s a pandemic going on. Yet it’s important to keep connected with your family and friends. So this holiday season, you may be wondering if it’s safe to go to an annual fiesta or plan your Nochebuena get-together or host a tamalada.
“We’re interactive social beings,” said Equality Health’s Medical Director, Arizona Market, Dr. Seth Dubry. “Not being able to engage with your loved ones can be devastating from an emotional standpoint. So I would never tell a patient of mine you cannot see your brother for Christmas.”
Count the Cost
But Dr. Dubry did share some advice on how to keep healthy, starting with making sure you feel safe and comfortable before you get together with others for the holidays. If you’re in a small group, no one has symptoms and everyone’s been vaccinated, it’s probably safe to get together.
“But if you’re going to a 40-person gathering,” Dr. Dubry said, “you don’t know who’s been vaccinated or hasn’t, you’re not sure if people know the symptoms, grandma’s going to be there and she’s being treated for breast cancer and will be immunocompromised (and she shouldn’t be going), then the risk is high.”
“Also remember kids,” Dr. Dubry added. “If you have a child in daycare who is three, that child can bring home COVID-19 and infect other people.”
If you’re traveling by yourself or with family, Dr. Dubry suggested the safest way is by car. Keep in mind the CDC recommends you delay travel until you’re fully vaccinated.
“If you’re not vaccinated,” Dr. Dubry said, “you should not travel, especially in light of the new variant, Omicron. The last thing you want is to have COVID-19, infect people along the way and get sick away from home.”
Vaccination and Honesty Best Policies
No matter what you decide, the best protection is to be fully vaccinated. Having done his graduate study in immunology, Dr. Dubry knows the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and he stresses the importance of making sure everyone’s feeling good and everyone’s vaccinated. But what if you don’t know?
“If I was going to a larger group gathering and didn’t know vaccination status and knew everyone would be close,” Dr. Dubry said, “I would definitely wear a mask. And while I was eating and couldn’t wear a mask, I’d try to distance myself from others — as long as I was close to the buffet table.”
But maybe you decide not to take the risk. If so, let people know why you’re not going.
“I am big about being open, honest and authentic with whomever I deal with,” Dr. Dubry said. “I think it’s important to do that in this situation. It’s also important to provide alternatives. If you just say, ‘Tio doesn’t believe in immunizations and he’s going to be there so I’m not going,’ you automatically set up a confrontation.”
Instead, Dr. Dubry suggested: “This year I just don’t feel comfortable being in a large group. Let’s do a video call when everyone gets there, and let’s do that every couple of hours. I really want to be part of la sobremesa.”
Set up some alternatives if you can. If the family lives close by, videoconference with the big group and see others in a small group if they’ve been vaccinated. Maybe the family will consider having the fiesta outside.
Say It Out Loud
If you’re going to a gathering, have a plan and talk about it. It’s always easier to stick with a plan when you verbalize it; plus you have someone to hold you to task.
“Even if you’re going by yourself,” Dr. Dubry said, “say it out loud. I would say, ‘Seth, you’re going to make sure you’re wearing a mask. If you have something to eat, you’re going to try to walk away from people. If it starts getting too crowded and people start unmasking, you’re going to go someplace else.’ Play those scenarios in your mind. It’s easier to do something if you’ve already visualized that you’re going to do it.”
Because inhibitions drop significantly the more you drink, you might all of a sudden realize your mask has been down for a half hour. Dr. Dubry advises to simply put the mask on again.
“It’s possible you were exposed and it’s possible you haven’t been,” Dr. Dubry said. “Once you realize you forgot to mask, you can always start doing the right thing.”
The Greater Good
The bottom line is you need to be aware of who you’re with and your surroundings. And even though you may have a bad case of COVID-19 fatigue, the basic health measures of getting vaccinated, masking, handwashing (or use a 60%-or-greater alcohol hand sanitizer), social distancing and getting tested and treated quickly still need to be followed.
“We know it’s difficult to remember everything,” Dr. Dubry said. “But to keep us all healthy and safe through another season, we just have to be aware. We’re all in this together. We have an obligation to the people we care about and ourselves to keep everybody safe. What can happen if we don’t take care of each other and ourselves is much worse than having to be careful during this season. At the end of the day, we as a country can flourish when we realize there’s a greater good. I hope that we continue to remember that.”
Published in Prensa Arizona, 12/16/2021