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Drew: Safely Hosting Family and Friends for the Holidays

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Well, it is almost gobble, gobble time again this year. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Thanksgiving is a time families and friends gather over delicious food, laugh, and talk together. Hosts make various preparations to ensure a wonderful experience for their guests. The menu is at the top of their preparation list. They shop around to find just the right turkey, decide whether to bake, smoke or fry it, along with selecting what are the best and favorite side dishes to accompany the juicy turkey. Yes, Thanksgiving requires much preparation, so the end result is a fun and memorable day for all involved.
This year’s hosts must add another critical item to their preparation list — how to address unvaccinated friends and family. It is essential all hosts keep in mind that there continues to be tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each day and that our country is not anywhere close to achieving herd immunity. This means the risk of COVID-19 infection remains very real.
So, before you move forward with those feast invitations there are some preparations which must be addressed. Do you limit your invitations to only those who are fully vaccinated? Do you offer another scaled back holiday celebration again this year? Do you ask family and friends to prove they are vaccinated, or do you serve up a list of precautions? Let’s explore your safety options to ensure your guests will have favorable memories.
We are all ready and eager for life to return to normal, but 2021 is still nowhere near normal. A recent Harris Poll found that half of the more than 1,400 vaccinated respondents were either “extremely” or “considerably” hesitant to spend the holidays with unvaccinated family members and friends. For some, the risk is not worth it!
“Be not afraid, but be reasonable,” said Dr. Juan C. Salazar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and physician-in-chief of Connecticut Children’s in Hartford, Conn. He feels you can still gather, but you need to answer one crucial question: “What is the likelihood that we will get very sick from COVID-19?” You need to give yourself an honest response.
A psychological expert, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and author of “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable,” Daniel L. Schapiro, believes you should reach out to any potential guests who are not vaccinated and solicit their ideas on how to gather safely. He suggests you begin by asking “What’s your advice on how we can gather together making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable?” Then discuss some options. You can suggest that there should be mandatory testing right before dinner, or that you should gather outside, near a patio heater.
He encourages people not to be judgmental and realize some ideas will be better than others. This process, if chosen, gives ownership over the process in helping Keep an Eye on Safety for all guests. Be cautious not to turn this conversation into a political debate. Next week’s article will offer additional safety options for consideration to help ensure a safe Thanksgiving.