We are entering the most dangerous phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Despite desperate pleas from world leaders a large percentage of the population are ignoring the threat of exposing their families, friends, and neighbors to COVID exposure.

The Holidays are one of my favorite times of year, mostly because I have a large family that I love, so I am not unsympathetic. This is afterall the season for joy, happiness, and celebration, but it is just too dangerous. I lost my mother when she was only 60 and my dad has been gone for almost 20 years, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have them back for a single day. Gathering for the holidays could well take your parents, friends, or siblings. At very least it could subject them to life-limiting conditions or shorten their lives—let’s face it there are far, FAR, better gifts to give them.

Social Distancing Need Not Be Anti-Social

I typically host Thanksgiving Dinner at my house. I have 6 siblings and several close relatives. My nieces and nephews are now grown and most have children of their own. It’s a tight squeeze with all those people, and as the family expands my house remains the same size. Even so, it’s a house full of happiness and love, and it saddens me that we won’t all be together (my wife and I will be having a ridiculously scaled-down version of the holidays (just the two of us), but that doesn’t mean we will be alone.)

We have the technology to reach out to our family—Zoom, Facetime, etc. and we have already made dates with family members to join them virtually. Try it; it isn’t the same as being physically present with them but it is surprisingly great to see the people in your life and talk to them about…well whatever you like.

For starters, we will be Facetiming with our daughters, son-in-laws, and their significant others. No, it most certainly isn’t the same, but both my wife and I (as well as one of our daughters) are front-line workers; we can’t get sick and we can’t change it. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be spending significant time with family and friends.

Staying Home Isn’t Cowardice

As a COVID Compliance Supervisor, I have a big red bullseye painted on me for the online trolls who feel completely free to criticize and politicize what I do for a living. I work in the entertainment business and if the infectious disease spreads on a movie or television production it shuts things down—not forever, and not even that long but in an industry where they track the cost of EVERYTHING from pencils to salaries; time is money. And the cost of a shutdown can be considerable. What is most startling to me is how few people understand basic science and more specifically how COVID is spread.

COVID is different than influenza (aka the “flu”) but I can forgive people for mistaking the two—the symptoms are similar if not identical. But we have become blase about the flu a relatively small amount of people will die because of the flu or complications thereof, and those who do, tend to be elderly, immunocompromised, or otherwise at risk. Plus, most of us have at least some natural immunity to the many varieties of influenza viruses. COVID is quite different. COVID-19 is actually a contraction of Coronavirus Disease 2019. Coronaviruses often mutate and “jump” species. Nobody is 100% certain of the origin of COVID-19 but it is believed to have “jumped” from bats to humans in Wuhan, China, where the consumption of bats is not rare. Presumably, were one to have a diet heavy in bats you might have immunity to COVID, but most of us in the U.S. won’t be serving bat at holiday meals and even if we did there is no scientific certainty that such immunity exists.

COVID is spread when water droplets that carry the disease are exhaled by an infected person and inhaled by another person, (It’s worth mentioning that it is theoretically possible to contract the disease by touching a surface and then touching one’s face, but this is far less the case than breathing infected air.)

Since water droplets weigh more than air they tend to fall to the ground before traveling too far; this is why scientists and virologists recommend that we practice “physical distancing”, that is the practice of keeping at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and a person who does not live with you in the same household. Wearing a mask impedes the flow of exhaled breath and reduces the distance that water droplets can travel. A mask is not designed to protect you from getting ill; it is to keep you from making others sick.

But I Am Not Sick

As I write this, testing centers throughout the U.S. are becoming overwhelmed with people getting tested for COVID, presumably in preparation for large gatherings. While this might sound like a great strategy many of these people, once tested, are likely to cram themselves into crowded supermarkets to buy supplies for the upcoming holidays, potentially infecting themselves and theoretically able to become contagious just in time for the holiday get together.

What’s worse is that one need not be exhibiting symptoms to be contagious. Some people develop very mild symptoms and may mistake these symptoms as seasonal allergies or some other condition that isn’t worth spoiling the holiday get together. Other people are asymptomatic—they don’t develop any symptoms but are still contagious.

Closed quarters and poor ventilation also factor into the risk factors for COVID. In short, even if you don’t feel sick, were recently tested and the test came back positive, you could still make your family sick simply because you love them and want to spend time with them.

You Probably Won’t Kill Your Family

Many of you may be thinking, “nobody in my family is at risk”, but consider this, if you infect (or become infected) you could easily infect scores of other people who may be at risk. I read a statistic somewhere (I honestly can’t remember where) that said that if you have a gathering of 20 people there is a better than 50% chance that at least one guest is infected and potentially contagious. Drop that number to 15 and the odds go down considerably. But realistically, are the celebration of the holidays worth recklessly endangering your loved ones?

Forewarned is Forearmed

You now know the risks of getting together for the holidays. Many of you will adopt an “it can’t happen to me” attitude, others will see avoiding holiday gatherings as giving into fear, some of you don’t believe the virus is real, but this is one of those cases where people say, “if only I knew then what I know now…” well you DO know now, and I hope you will act responsibly. The risk to reward ratio just isn’t worth it. So celebrate with your family virtually. The life you save could be mine.