Advice for the holiday season: 10 clinicians weigh in

Below are 10 clinicians' opinions on what Thanksgiving and the holiday season should look like this year, as compiled by Becker's.

Note: This list is not exhaustive.

Ten quotes from clinicians regarding the holiday season:   

1. "I think we ought to write it off," Bruce Hirsch, MD, an infectious disease specialist at New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, told Newsday. The physician said he plans to celebrate the holiday at home with family via video calls. "It's the year of COVID. If we do gather as large families, and someone gets sick, and God forbid dies, it's a terrible stain on the holidays."

2. "The best way to stay safe this Thanksgiving is to have a small family gathering with only the people in your immediate household," said Roy Chemaly, MD, an infectious disease and infection control specialist at Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center. "Everything — airports, airplanes, gas stations and hotels — tends to be more crowded at this time of year, but you can minimize your exposure to crowds by celebrating at home."

3. "What you don't know is, what has everybody else been doing?" Tim Schacker, MD, vice dean of research at Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota Medical School, told The Star Tribune. "Have all of them had the same definition of what it means to isolate or quarantine? ... Have they truly been asymptomatic? It strikes me that you are not going to test your way out of these questions."

4. "Research the heck out of your destination," Christopher Sanford, MD, a physician with Seattle-based UW Medical Center, told KIRO-FM. "With the counties being different in the U.S. and the countries being different … there's no one general rule." Dr. Sanford added, "Instead of having the family over at the holidays, maybe have two people over, and consider sitting outside and wearing masks."

5. "We are all ready and eager for life to return to normal," said Rachel Lynn, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at MD Anderson Cancer Center. "But 2020 is still nowhere near normal. So, this holiday season is an opportunity to create new traditions, rather than returning to ways of old."

6. "Each family unit has to weigh both the risks of transmitting the virus to others and the risks to themselves should they contract it," Wendy Dean, MD, president and co-founder of Washington, D.C.-based Moral Injury of Healthcare, told CNBC. 

7. "As the CDC recommends, be mindful of the various factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at in-person gatherings, and work to minimize your risk and that of others," Marilyn Peitso, MD, president of the Minnesota Medical, told Bring Me The News. "We realize that after eight months of fighting this pandemic, people are tired. Everyone has COVID fatigue, but we can’t let our defenses down now."

8. "The strongest advice is don't gather with people outside of your household this Thanksgiving," Mark Escott, MD, interim health authority for Austin and Travis County, Texas, told The Austin American-Statesman. "If you choose to do that, despite the very strong advice to not do it, then doing other things to protect yourselves is important."

9. "You'll never be able to get a badge that says, 'I tested COVID-free, so now I can hang out with my grandparents and be completely sure that I’m not going to infect them,'" Bobbi Pritt, MD, head of Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic's clinical microbiology division, told The Star Tribune.

10. "We're going to look back at what happened during this holiday season and ask ourselves, 'Were we part of the solution or were we part of the problem?'" said Iahn Gonsenhauser, MD, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. 

More articles on public health:
US records 1M cases in week; Moderna's vaccine 94.5% effective — 6 COVID-19 updates
23 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Nov. 16
Face mask policies by state


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