by Olivia Murray
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes in plans for most, especially regarding the celebration of holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s Eve and Day.
With Monongalia County seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday, many may feel conflicted as to how they should celebrate the remaining holidays or if they should at all.
West Virginia University Extension Service Family and Community Development Agent Ami Cook offered guidance for those actively facing such a conflict.
“Keep your gatherings small and limit your celebration to local family members who don’t have to travel far to be with you. Limit contact with the public, when possible, wash your hands and wear a mask in the weeks leading up to the meal,” Cook said in a release from WVU Today.
Cook also suggested weather-permitted outdoor meals with masks worn and a six-foot distance between participants or Zoom calls taking the place of traditional indoor meals and celebrations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those who are contemplating a holiday gathering consider COVID-19 infection rates in areas where potential attendees live to help inform their decision.
The CDC also suggests limiting the number of attendees, holding outdoor celebrations, requiring guests to wear masks and distance themselves from each other. The CDC recommends asking guests to avoid contact with people outside their household for 14 days prior to the planned gathering as well.
Many Morgantown residents are taking a cautious, distant approach to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
“Normally, I’d drive home to Chicago to be with family. Since there’s uncontrollable community spread in Morgantown and Chicago, I’ll be staying [in Morgantown] for the holidays. We’ll open presents and celebrate over Facetime. First time being without family, but it’s worth it to keep everyone safe,” resident Rachel Elaine said.
Another resident, Matthew Franks, said a brief, outdoor gift exchange will be the extent of holiday celebrations for his family this year.
“[I’m] delivering gifts to family that lives close during the week of Christmas by dropping presents off on their porches,” said Adam Menear, adding that his family will otherwise act in accordance with CDC guidelines and avoid visiting each other.
Some Morgantown residents do intend to go home for the holidays, but plan to do it safely and with consideration for their close family members.
Heidi Muller will be traveling to Michigan to visit her family, though the family’s holiday celebrations will be socially distanced.
“I get tested weekly and I’m pretty isolated so [my family] feels safe with me there. [We] plan to do a tailgating party in the woods, where we can spread out safely. We are bringing our own food and drinks and just planning on laughing and spending time together,” Muller said.
Julia Brefczynski-Lewis said her family hopes to be able to gather traditionally by Easter and the Fourth of July, but their winter holiday celebrations will be limited.
“Our adult son and girlfriend will come over, masked, for a short gift exchange and some cheer, but our wonderful team cooking event and extended family visits are just a bit postponed this year. Quiet contemplation and prayer seem a great alternative,” Brefczynski-Lewis said.
For additional information on holiday celebrations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.