COVID-19 Complicates the Holidays

Anna Albergo and Miranda Parrish

This holiday season, political leaders and medical professionals on federal, state and local levels have been advising Americans to stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

There have been mixed responses to governmental action regarding the pandemic. Despite encouragement from leaders to not travel for the Holidays, an annual AAA study that estimated Thanksgiving 2020 travel dropped slightly to 50.5 million travelers, compared to 55.3 million travelers in 2019.

With mixed reactions from communities around the United States, it has been difficult to get everybody on board with COVID guidelines, leading to disagreements throughout the country. Families and communities have held gatherings without guidelines in place, leaving many people in the hospital while begging others to not make the same mistakes they did.

On the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to maintain social distancing and follow guidelines. Before Thanksgiving, Henry Walk, a member of the CDC said, “the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time.” While the country’s COVID response has differed from state to state, Governor Hogan (R) took action of Maryland’s response from the beginning. 

Since November, Governor Hogan has held daily press conferences to update Marylanders on new COVID-19 protocols, announcing plans to distribute vaccines and travel restrictions in the wake of the state’s rising coronavirus cases. With the holidays approaching, Governor Hogan has reinforced the importance of social distancing and mask wearing, even making his slogan, “wear the damn mask.” He even cancelled his own Thanksgiving plans with his family and chose to stay home and have a safe holiday, while encouraging other Marylanders to do the same. Prior to Thanksgiving, Hogan tightened restrictions on social gatherings in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. On November 17, he forced bars and restaurants to close at 10 PM and limited the capacities of stores, religious facilities and fitness centers. He also urged Marylanders to stay home and not travel to any state with a positivity rate higher than 10%. This December, Maryland is only allowing essential travel. To help Marylanders understand the importance of staying home, Hogan said, “our contact tracing shows that family gatherings (are) the number one transmission event.” 

On a more local level, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski echoed similar concerns. At a press conference on November 23, he said, “This Thanksgiving, skip the hugs and large family gatherings now so you can have them for years to come. And please, for the love of God, wear your mask. The end of the virus is coming. And that should motivate us to do our part.”

With the pandemic, the holidays look different than usual for students and teachers at Dulaney. A poll sent out to students and staff found that 83.9% of the people surveyed did not travel for the holidays. Of that same group, a larger amount, 85.1%, are not planning on traveling over winter break. Of those who elected to travel, 62.5% are planning to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Freshman Ryleigh Bernhardt was one of the many Dulaney students who chose to stay home for the holidays this year. She believes that “lower occupancies and enforcement of mask wearing – not just any masks, the effective ones – and another shutdown” are necessary to lower case numbers. Junior Nupur Shah and her family also stayed in place. Shah said that if she traveled, she would follow guidelines and that “going back into quarantine like all the other successful countries who now are relieved of it” will help decrease case numbers in America. Similarly, Yesha Shukla said, “I have [traveled] in the past before COVID-19, but I won’t this year.” 

Among those who traveled for Thanksgiving, Tate Kahalas said his “family has been very careful” and will “not be traveling for Christmas.” Instead, only his grandparents will be coming over.

With most students and staff choosing to spend the holiday at home, the Dulaney community is doing their part in ensuring safety and following the recommended guidelines. It is our hope that by the next holiday season students and staff will be able to travel as they please.