Difficult Holiday Planning Conversations

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into fall, it is time to plan for the holidays and have some potentially challenging conversations. Although I had the virus in the spring, my blood test recently revealed zero protective antibodies. There could be multiple potential reasons for this – from my immune system to my medications to the simple passage of time). My doctor says: “Be safe! Live your life, but be careful!” This means I have to make careful choices about interactions with other people.

Continuing to protect myself from coronavirus

The antibodies test is not perfect. I likely do have some protection (understanding B cell immunity is an entirely different topic), but I cannot be certain. Recent reports have documented rare cases of virus reinfection as well.

So, in my case, I have to behave like I never had the virus. I have to take into account that I have an autoimmune disease and take immune-suppressing medication. My conditions put me into a higher risk group for the virus, so I obviously want to avoid contracting it again.

COVID-19 precautions during the holidays

On a daily basis, I am usually home and am lucky to have a job where I can telework. I limit going out but, when I do, I always wear a mask and keep a distance from others. When I return home, I wash my hands thoroughly.

But the holidays are different. When we visit family, we stay in close proximity to them for hours. For me, the questions will be hard to ask. Have they been careful with mask-wearing and interactions with others? Can I spend close quality time without putting myself at grave risk? How do I plan for visiting multiple households and not potentially spread the virus — not only to myself but to other family members in high-risk health categories?

Different strokes for different folks

As in all aspects of life, some people are more careful than others. Let’s also be honest: some people are taking the virus more seriously than others. While I believe in people having the ability to make the choices best for themselves, I also believe in protecting my health (and other people’s health).

I know some of my family is being very cautious because they are either at risk themselves or live with someone in that situation. I also know some family members who don’t think the virus is serious. This puts me in the position of needing to have some difficult conversations about protecting my health.

Choosing what’s right for each of us

Thankfully, my husband, Richard is very understanding and supportive. He agrees that we have to be careful. We also feel that we need to ask family members what they themselves are comfortable doing. Some of them may just want a video visit and not an in-person visit. That is okay by me, as I feel like everyone needs to be comfortable and live with their choices.

I have friends who have high-risk health conditions who have just decided they are staying home and not making any travel plans for the holidays. I think that decision is fine, but I am sure really hard to make. Calls and video chats are nice, but we all know they are not the same as hugging your loved ones. But sometimes showing your love means keeping your distance and keeping people safe from the spreading virus.

Planning what holiday gatherings may look like

The bottom line is we all have to make decisions that are best for our personal circumstances and comfort level. My choices may not be the same as yours.

In my case, I’m thinking about my susceptibility to the virus and risk. I’m going to be asking people how they have been practicing safety during the pandemic to determine if I will feel safe spending time inside together. If not, I’ll be working on alternative visits like outdoors. I’ll be asking what they are comfortable with and explaining that I have to be careful due to my personal health situation.

These conversations and planning for the holidays are hard. It’s been a long year and we are all anxious to resume visits and regular life. But we have to keep hanging on to the larger goal of getting through this safely together.

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