WSP parent, Dr. Kevin Baskin offers valuable insights and wise safety tips for the upcoming holidays.
As the holiday season approaches, we are drawn to share time with our family, friends and community. It has been a challenging year, with the shifting requirements of remote and in-person schooling and our hopes for normalization of our daily activities to pre-pandemic patterns. We share hope that successful vaccines may signal that the end of this pandemic is within sight.
However, rising rates of viral transmission and accumulating evidence are telling a cautionary tale. This is not a time to live in denial or to substitute hope for action. Half of all viral infections are transmitted by people without symptoms. There is no practical way to know who might be both infected and infective. The most prudent response is to presume that everyone is infected, and to practice social distancing, mask-wearing, hand and surface cleaning, and air freshening as much and as often as possible.
From a practical perspective, most of us live within a nuclear household – we share living space with the same small group each day. We take our masks off and relax our boundaries somewhat around this small group.
Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a time when traditional nuclear household boundaries are often relaxed – we invite others into our homes or travel to share this special time. With the pandemic, these traditional practices may greatly increase the risk of sickness, long-term ailments, and death. We have to take these increased risks seriously and consider significant modifications to our traditional habits that can be saddening and emotionally burdensome. Yet, these are the things we do when our family and friends are threatened – we band together in common purpose to protect each other and keep each other safe. In this spirit, we would like to offer some practical thoughts about things we can all do to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus and to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safer.
First, try to avoid gatherings. Ideally, we will share this time with our nuclear household only.
If we find ourselves for various reasons in a somewhat larger gathering, there are things we can do to mitigate risk:
If you are with people outside your normal nuclear household, wear a mask in the home as well as when outside the home. Consider taking masks off while eating but shorten mealtimes and put masks back on when the meal is done. Try to separate eating from socializing.
Consider single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable/compostable plates and utensils. Be mindful about beverages and glassware, like wine bottles, that may be handled by others. Have each person sitting and eating in their own space, if possible.
Spread out around the room and even across rooms to have conversations instead of grouping together on the couch.
Open windows and dress warmly. Your Waldorf students can tell you how to layer effectively – they are doing it every day! If weather permits meals outdoors, enjoy the brisk al fresco opportunity.
Encourage frequent hand-washing and clean common surfaces frequently. Place disposable paper towels in the bathroom so guests aren’t sharing the same hand towel.
If you do have symptoms or have been around someone who does, stay away from others. There will be a time to give thanks again next year. We want everyone you love to be there to share it with you. A little common sense is most definitely something to give thanks for now and in the future.
Happy Thanksgiving – stay healthy and stay safe!
Kevin M. Baskin, MD
Waldorf Parent (Lukáš, Grade 7)
Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness Task Force
US FDA Medical Device Epidemiology Network