The holidays are a time for gathering as a family, but as Georgia’s COVID-19 cases rise, holiday plans have altered. Gathering in larger groups and putting older relatives at risk has worried families. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), Georgia’s latest surge in cases is almost double the level that came before the summer wave of COVID-19 cases. The AJC also details that with winter weather on the way, COVID-19 in Georgia could further worsen if people fail to social distance and properly wear masks. With ever-increasing numbers across the U.S., hospitals have filled rapidly and healthcare workers are exhausted, according to The New York Times.
With college students returning home for the holidays, the risk has only increased. College COVID-19 numbers have been higher than ever, and The New York Times reports that more than 50 colleges reported a minimum of 1,000 cases over the course of the pandemic. Health officials have encouraged meeting only in small groups and not seeing older or high-risk relatives for the holidays for these reasons.
In fact, the CDC published a list of tips on how to enjoy the holidays and stay safe from the virus, including methods of handling food and drink safely and steps to follow if exposed. Most health officials recommend canceling plans altogether, however.
As a result, Pace students and their families have had to get creative with their holiday plans. Many Pace families chose to stay home instead of traveling like they normally would. “Thanksgiving for my family usually has huge gatherings with a bunch of family and friends, but with COVID-19 we were just by ourselves,” said sophomore CJ Thomas. “It was weird but we managed.”
Junior Allison Silverboard also only celebrated Thanksgiving with her immediate family and used two tables to social distance.
“We chose to travel up to Cashiers, North Carolina because it was really nice up there, and not too much changed for our family but we kept it to a smaller number of people this year,” said senior Josh Mininberg.
Sophomore Brooke Fung Chung limited the family members at her Thanksgiving gathering and chose to stay in Atlanta because of COVID-19 risks.
“We stayed in Atlanta because the risk of being infected or infecting others was too great, and we could not visit with relatives,” said freshman Walker Smith.
Sophomore Barri Seitz traveled to Florida with her family for Thanksgiving. “We didn’t go to any restaurants or eat in big public spaces like we normally would have,” said Seitz. “We also didn’t meet up with any friends while we were down there and wore masks on the car ride down with extended family.”
Junior Kargil Behl commented that from the time he was in lower school, his grandparents would come to visit from England for Thanksgiving. However, with the circumstances this year, his family celebrated socially-distanced and virtually.
Many students are waiting for the December holidays to see family members they chose not to visit during Thanksgiving. “We decided to essentially ‘cancel’ Thanksgiving, so we stayed home and chose to wait until Christmas to be as safe as possible because Christmas was more important to our family,” said sophomore Marisa Sapre. She added that her aunt is very insistent they keep their tradition of visiting South Carolina for Christmas, so her family will get tested and quarantine before their visit.
Some students, however, don’t share the same hopeful sentiment for a more joyous winter holiday. “I think Christmas will be the same as Thanksgiving for us, and we will stay in Atlanta and not have many family members over,” said Fung Chung. Seitz, Mininberg and Thomas don’t anticipate big family gatherings, either. Seitz said that her family is planning to keep it small for Hanukkah and will be able to space visits out because there are eight nights to celebrate.
“We will definitely have to be very careful, especially with grandparents coming to town in December,” Mininberg said. “We usually have a big Christmas party, but this year that won’t happen,” said Thomas. “I’m just happy to be with my family at all during these times to be honest.”