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Tips for Having a Happy, Safe Holiday Season

White Plains Hospital

December 18, 2020

Tips for Having a Happy, Safe Holiday Season

White Plains Hospital's top physician offers advice for celebrating safely during these unprecedented times.

The holiday season is a traditionally social time of year, marked by trips to the mall, friendly gatherings, family celebrations, and long-distance travel. After months of sheltering in place and social distancing, it may be especially tempting to be drawn into more socially active situations during such a festive time of year.

With the rising COVID-19 rates over the past several weeks and new restrictions in place for certain communities, the holiday season must be treated differently this year.

Dr. Michael Palumbo, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of White Plains Hospital as well as other members of the medical community want to remind everyone how important it is to have a happy and safe holiday season this year.

“We know how difficult and disappointing it is not to be able to celebrate our family traditions the way we normally would,” says Dr. Palumbo. “But as of right now, it’s all of our responsibility to put safety first in line, for the protection of our loved ones and others.”

Dr. Palumbo offers these simple rules to celebrating safely:

Know the Rising Risks

COVID-19 remains a major threat to our well-being. The number of positive cases continues to be on the rise worldwide, even in Westchester County as the weather gets colder and people stay indoors. “Staying vigilant by wearing masks, avoiding big crowds, social distancing, and washing your hands regularly works. I know it feels like you have been hearing this message forever, but it’s still the very best way to stay safe and slow the spread,” says Dr. Palumbo.

Avoid Long-Distance Travel

COVID-19 is making the prospect of any kind of travel this season fraught with logistical challenges and difficulties. With so many “hot” states, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a new travel advisory: travelers who were in another state (except those contiguous to NY (NJ, CT, PA, MA, VT) for more than 24 hours:

  • Must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state.
  • Must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
  • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests come back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.

For travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours, there are no testing or quarantine requirements, however, the traveler must fill out a travel form and take a COVID diagnostic test 4 days after their arrival in New York. Given these new requirements, staying home this year – and continuing to connect with long-distance family via videoconferencing – is not only the safest but probably the most stress-free option.

Shop Local

It’s never been more important to support our local businesses. While you may need to purchase some of your gifts online, consider taking an off-peak trip to your local shopping center or Main Street this holiday season. Shopping local is one of the best ways to help small business owners recoup some of their losses from earlier in the year. Plus local businesses go the extra mile with festive displays and holiday music. “The bonus is that these places tend to be less crowded than the bigger retailers and mega malls, so you can still social distance without sacrificing the enjoyment of gift-buying and boosting your holiday mood,” says Dr. Palumbo.

Celebrate Responsibly

The Governor has attributed the most recent spike in cases to three main areas: social gatherings in homes, restaurants and bars, and gyms. As a result, indoor gatherings at private residences are limited to no more than 10 people and statewide restrictions call for 10 p.m. curfews for restaurants and bars. The Governor noted that post-Thanksgiving 75% of COVID-19 cases in New York State could be traced to small social gatherings and advised families not to shirk their responsibility to follow safety protocols. One solution for large families celebrating the holidays could be to split the group between two days and do a buffet instead of a sit-down to allow diners to be able to space everyone out. “We know that families and friends are still going to get together over the holidays, pandemic or not,” says Dr. Palumbo. “Just take a moment and consider the relatively simple ways you can minimize potential exposure to you and to others – especially if older or more vulnerable family members or friends will be present.”

Dr. Michael Palumbo

Dr. Michael Palumbo is the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at White Plains Hospital.