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As COVID-19 surge continues to soar, cancel plans for in-person gatherings

Berkeley, California (Friday, December 18, 2020) - Español
Keep yourself, your loved ones, and our community safe by canceling any holiday travel or gathering plans and celebrating at home with your household.

Ten percent of all COVID-19 cases since March among Berkeleyans have been in the last week. Hospitalizations continue to soar, leaving fewer than 13 percent of intensive care beds available across the Bay Area.

Thanksgivings gatherings fueled spread on top of an existing surge. Another round of gatherings at year's end would intensify this unprecedented increase, given that symptoms and hospitalizations take weeks to emerge. 

The more of us that take action now, the sooner we will recover. During this period of extreme transmission, in-person social gatherings are not safe - even with precautions.

Holiday gatherings spread COVID-19

COVID-19 spreads easily between people, and as many as half of those infected have no symptoms. We each may be unknowing carriers and spreaders. We also each hold the power to control the spread.

Social gatherings are a significant source of COVID-19 transmission, and we have consistently seen spikes in cases following holidays. We still have not seen the full impact of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. It can take two weeks for the virus to be detectable by a test or for symptoms to emerge after an exposure. Hospitalizations typically follow two to three weeks later.

Holiday gatherings bring together many of the factors that create the highest risk environments - mixing many households indoors, often in a crowded space, without masks. When eating and drinking in a large group, people may yell or laugh exuberantly, both of which cause us to expel respiratory particles more forcefully, which increases risk of COVID-19 spread.

Move celebrations online

Connecting with family, friends, and neighbors is a treasured part of the holidays for many of us. This year, these celebrations need to become virtual events.

Look for alternative ways enjoy the holidays with loved ones without getting together:

  • Host a virtual holiday dinner or brunch over videoconference.
  • Recreate the fun of cooking together remotely - pick a recipe to make together over video chat
  • Sync up and enjoy a favorite holiday movie while on the phone together.
  • Organize an online holiday craft or home decoration contest.
  • Cook your favorite holiday foods at home and deliver them to friends and family. Remember - if you're sharing food with people you don't live with, make sure to wash your hands frequently and wear a face covering while cooking and delivering your treats.

Strategies for having the "COVID chat" with friends and family

Saying no to people we love is never easy. These strategies may help when declining invitations or canceling plans with loved ones:

  • Prepare ahead of time. Write down your reasons for choosing not to meet in person during this period of heightened threat. If you're anxious about the conversation, gain confidence by rehearsing what you will say on your own or with a friend, partner, or in the mirror.
  • Be firm and direct. State your decision clearly at the beginning of the conversation. If you stall or waver, you may give the impression that you are open to negotiation.
  • Acknowledge your own sadness. Make it clear that you are avoiding gatherings because of the virus, not because of your feelings about the person you are speaking with. If you are sad and disappointed to not be able to see them in person, say so. Tell them you miss them and that you are tired of the pandemic too.
  • Stay focused on your own comfort level. Be clear that you are making a personal decision based on your own risk tolerance. Use I statements. Don't get into a debate about the seriousness of COVID-19. It may help to frame your decision around concern for others, such as "I don't want to be responsible for putting you at risk."
  • Listen. Loved ones who were looking forward to seeing you may be hurt, disappointed, or angry at a change in plans. Take the time to listen to them and acknowledge their emotions without arguing. Be understanding if they need time to process their feelings.
  • Suggest alternatives - and follow through. Remind them that you still care about them and that there are other ways to stay connected. Offer to host a video call while cooking or eating dinner, or to drop off their favorite dish. Even if they are not interested in replacing a planned in-person event with a virtual one this time, you can make an effort to call or text to say hi more often.

COVID-19 doesn't take holidays off. For the health of our whole community, please be careful to reduce opportunities for spread this season - stay home, don't gather, and celebrate with loved ones remotely.


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