The holiday season is now upon us and it will look very different from what many are used to from previous years, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The traditions people look forward to, such as getting together with extended family and friends, may not happen or may take place with strict precautions. For Montclair State University students, celebrations for the holidays are going to be slightly different from what they have been used to in the past.
Amanda Tragale, a freshman international business major, said she usually spends Christmas at her aunt’s house. However, this year she will be spending the holidays at home with her immediate family.
“We usually go to my aunt’s house; [we are] not doing that this year because of COVID-19. [My aunt] goes between Florida and New Jersey,” Tragale said. “She was going to come up [to New Jersey] and we thought it wasn’t a good idea, so I am just going to spend the holidays with my immediate family: just me, my brother, my mom and my dad.”
In contrast to Tragale, freshman psychology major Giuliana Martinez will be hosting Christmas at her house with her extended family. However, Martinez said that her family members will be getting tested and screening themselves for symptoms prior to arriving at her house.
“We usually host at my house every year and my family usually consists of at least 15 people; I know the legal limit is 10,” Martinez said. “So we’re just making sure that everyone is in good health and doesn’t show any symptoms. We usually celebrate on [Christmas Eve] with everyone here.”
Dr. Courtney Reinisch, a certified family nurse practitioner and an associate professor for the School of Nursing at Montclair State, said that people must take necessary precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing. Reinisch also said people should stay home this holiday season. For those intent on holding gatherings, Reinisch says that all in attendance should be outside as much as possible and adhere to procedures related to masks and social distancing.
“They can be outside, go for a walk instead of sitting enclosed in a room. They need to wear the masks and they need to avoid eating and drinking together,” Reinisch said. “That’s a higher opportunity for aerosolization of the virus.”
Reinisch went on to say that improving ventilation by having doors and windows open during the gathering would also help. However, limited contact outdoors, masked and socially distant or simply staying home, are the best options in curbing the spread of this virus.
In addition to gatherings with family, many people like Tragale and Martinez enjoy getting together with their friends to exchange gifts during this time of year. Both students have been shopping online for gifts and are brainstorming ideas of how to go about gift exchanges while limiting contact with their friends.
“I am doing a lot of online shopping. When you do buy things, you have the option to send to another address as a gift; you can write a little message. That is what I am doing with some of my family,” Martinez said. “My friends and I usually do a Christmas swap, but I feel like maybe this year we might do a drive-by with gifts rather than a sit-down get-together.”
Similar to Martinez, Tragale has been shopping online for gifts. Tragale is also trying to figure out how she would be able to exchange gifts with her friends as they are unable to do it the way they have in previous years.
“We usually get together and we talk about Secret Santa and pick names; we didn’t do that,” Tragale said. “I don’t know if I am going to be exchanging presents with my friends.”
Reinisch said that it is best not to do in-person gift exchanges and that people should do as Tragale and Martinez are doing: purchase gifts online and have them delivered directly to friends and family members.
“Just have the item shipped directly to the person you want to send the gift to,” Reinisch said. “It’s not as personal like you getting to wrap it, but it’s the best we can do this year.”
Moving away from the festivities of the holiday season, Reinisch said that it is important for people to take this virus seriously and if they are experiencing symptoms of the flu or even a common cold, they must assume it is COVID-19 and get tested immediately.
“There’s a wide range of symptoms from diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath,” Reinisch said. “There are no common colds. Every symptom you have to assume is COVID-19. You have to get tested.”
Reinisch also noted that you can be asymptomatic and still have COVID-19.
“As for this holiday season, the best gift we can give anyone this year is to just stay home,” Reinisch said.