We must take steps to stay safe this holiday season

November 17, 2020

With Halloween decorations packed away and Election Day having come and gone, Thanksgiving is now right around the corner. While your family is bouncing around recipe ideas, searching for holiday shopping deals, and mapping out must-watch TV viewing for after dinner, it’s more important than ever that we embrace COVID-19 prevention measures as part of our holiday plans. 

This year has been anything but ordinary and, unfortunately, this holiday season will be different from normal, too. While your family’s traditions may not look the same, you can still share so much joy this holiday season as you remain healthy and safe.

The Rattays usually travel to New Jersey to gather with family in a home with 30 or so people, including some who are at higher risk for getting sick because of age or underlying conditions.  This year our core family of four will celebrate at home in Delaware.  We are ordering dinner from our favorite local restaurants and planning a day of Zooming with family members across the country and being with our dog.  

Like the example we just shared, this holiday season it’s important that everyone celebrate only with those who live in your house. The COVID-19 virus does not know state lines, so if you have family traveling from out of state, or you are planning to travel yourself, you might unintentionally bring the virus with you, even if you are not showing symptoms. We need to limit this risk - for the safety of you and your family - by celebrating virtually instead of in person.  This means no in-person ‘Friends-giving’ celebrations either.

Across Delaware and the rest of the country, we are seeing a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, and we expect that to increase as the temperature drops and more folks spend time inside around people outside of their home.  And from our own data, these social gatherings, whether at a house party, casual dinner, or restaurant, where people take off their masks while they eat, drink and chat, are the primary situations in which COVID-19 is being spread.  Sadly, it’s just not safe right now to eat, drink or party with people outside of our household unless we are socially distanced and outside.

So it’s more important than ever to follow the prevention methods we know that work. Wear a mask. Stay at least six feet apart. Stay outside as much as possible when spending time with people outside of your household (and still using face coverings and social distancing).  Limit time spent with people outside of your household. Wash your hands frequently. Get tested. Download COVID Alert DE, our free and anonymous exposure notification smartphone app. Stay home if you’re sick or have any COVID-like symptoms. 

We know this is hard. Trust us, it’s hard for us, too. And we realize that this holiday season will be especially challenging for Delawareans who have lost their jobs during this pandemic or had their incomes reduced. We encourage you to call Delaware 2-1-1 for support in dealing with food, rent or utility payments. For those who are struggling with depression, anxiety or a behavioral health crisis, please call the 24/7 Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (1-833-946-7333) to talk with a trained professional counselor.

No matter our situation this holiday season, we know that by taking precautions now as we plan our celebrations, we will make future in-person celebrations even more joyous. And we will feel good knowing that we did everything we could to protect our friends and family this fall and winter. 

This holiday season, we are thankful for you, Delaware. You have trusted in the science and healthcare experts. You stayed home to protect your neighbors earlier this year. You are wearing masks to protect those of us who go to work every day in an essential job. By wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and getting the flu vaccine, you protect vulnerable seniors and people with underlying health conditions, including individual with disabilities. 

At the Department of Health and Social Services, there is nothing more important to us than protecting your health and the health of your family. Plus, we know that we can’t have a healthy economy or a healthy community until we slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

By continuing to take precautions now, we will become a healthy community once again and get back to a more traditional way of life. 

Molly Magarik is the cabinet secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services. Dr. Karyl Rattay is the director of the Division of Public Health.
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