Remember Thanksgiving just a year ago? It was that family gathering when you prepared the turkey and someone brought a vegetable and someone else brought dessert and someone else brought cranberry sauce. But mostly it was the people coming together for family time, and the majority would be perhaps college students heading home for the break, but this year’s college-age kids are the majority of the 100,000+ new coronavirus cases each day. They may be filled with expectation and family happiness, but they also may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic
So, if your family includes an older generation of particularly vulnerable adults, please know that in a recent analysis of COVID surveillance strategies at 1400 U.S. colleges two-thirds either were not testing or only testing symptomatic students for COVID. On top of it all, we are technically entering the traditional flu season. Infectious disease specialists recommend a four step to protect the vulnerable within your extended family this holiday:
- Students self-quarantine eight days before schedule departure for home. Revert to all on-line learning, wear a mask, socially distance, and wash hands frequently.
- Test before travel. Experts recommend a molecular test for viral RNA test; have your student ask for student as for an approved nuclear acid amplification test (NAAT). IF results are positive, cancel the trip this year.
- If safe to travel, have your student mask-up at all times, and be sure they carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Add some sanitizer wipes to disinfect all surfaces with which they will come in contact.
- You’re not out of the woods yet. While at home, all who have not been living in a “pod” (self-quarantining) at home need to be vigilant about social distancing. And all guests who plan to join you should follow the above three steps also…okay, they may not need to do the on-line learning part. And no buffet style services, no hugs and kisses (sadly), and have lots of hand washing while preparing and consuming meals.
- I add a fifth step to encourage some optimism. Keep a focus on safety now and also keep a clear focus on next year with the hope that we will all get through this. Just this week, Pfizer announced 90% success with its two injection vaccine.
Maybe it’s morbid to remind ourselves that the early pilgrims also had their viral scourges: yellow fever, small pox, the plague and more. They had no hand sanitizer and no vaccines. We have a lot more going for us this Thanksgiving if we just follow the steps. Have a great holiday, and start with making it a safe holiday.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.