2020 was certainly an eventful year, especially with the struggle against COVID-19. As we step into 2021, it is important to reflect on the impact holiday festivities and travel had on the pandemic. Holidays usually bring families together with dinners and family parties, but for most families in 2020 that was replaced with FaceTime, Google Meets, and Zoom calls.
In December of 2020, New Jersey had more new cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 than ever before, with many other states having similar rises in case numbers/ hospitalizations. Some days there were over 200,000 new cases in the United States, and in New Jersey alone, some days there were over 6,000 new cases. The problems caused by this pandemic added to the typical winter flu season, enhancing the problems doctors and healthcare workers are facing: extremely limited numbers of ICU beds, overworked and limited staff, and a demand for supplies such as masks.
Many would think about staying home during the holidays because of the increase in cases, but some were willing to risk their health to see their family and loved ones. These people celebrated the new year and holidays with in-person celebrations, which translates directly into the record-high case numbers now seen in the data. As expected, some families have holiday traditions that they wanted to keep up with no matter what, or perhaps some simply wanted to forget everything that they had to deal with in 2020 and enjoy the holidays freely with family and friends. But, even though some had felt it was worth the risk, especially in a pandemic, the well-being and safety of humanity as a whole truly depends on everyone doing their part to prioritize safety above all else. If these people stayed home or practiced social distancing during these celebrations, we could have eliminated the rise in COVID-19 cases during December.
It is important to note that some families and holiday gatherings were following CDC guidelines. By wearing masks as much as possible, socially distancing, and staying for a relatively short amount of time, some succeeded in making the holidays semi-normal while still following CDC guidelines. Unfortunately, not everyone had the same idea of ‘safe’; some weren’t doing anything to protect themselves or their loved ones, hence why it might be a better idea to have just stayed home.
The holidays were undoubtedly some of the most challenging times to spend in quarantine; being with friends and family is something that nearly everyone looks forward to. But as the world heads into January and 2021 as a whole, make sure to keep following the CDC guidelines for COVID-19. With the flu doubling the trouble for us this winter, let’s make sure that some of the mistakes that were made over the holidays don’t repeat themselves, hopefully lessening cases for these hard-working healthcare workers and epidemiologists around the world.