Sober advice for the coming holiday party season

By Dennis Archambault

I generally don’t read advice columns. But the headline of a recent column struck me: “Danger of COVID-19 is not a game of Risk”.  While I have played the game Risk in the past, I’m generally a very low risk-taker when it comes to my personal health and safety. I recall news coverage surrounding the COVID party in the South several weeks ago, resulting in the death of a 30-year old, so the idea of a game of Risk connected with COVID struck my curiosity. The writer, “Careful in Colorado,” was concerned that her Facebook friends attended a “gathering” where people were not following COVID safety guidelines. She socialized outdoors throughout the summer but expressed concern that she may have to end her socializing with the coming cold weather. The issue for the advice columnist was, “Is there any polite way to ask potential invitees if they have been in any large, unmasked groups recently?” She didn’t ask, but should have: “What is the proper number of people I can invite safely in my home, and what should I ask my friends who invite me to their home?”

As we step (gingerly) into the winter holiday season, that becomes an important concern. Few households have spaces allowing for six-foot distances between people and dinner tables where proper distancing can be observed. The prospect of family gatherings becomes a serious concern. But back to the response to “Careful in Colorado.” The advice columnist wisely recommended that the writer stay current on CDC guidelines, as well as public health requirements in her state. As for the question about whether they had been to an event when proper guidelines have not been followed, the columnist responded, “Given that people – even people you are close to – might qualify lying about this as a ‘social’ or ‘little white lie,’ and given the quite irrational but human tendency to bend or dismiss the truth to avoid embarrassment, I don’t think you can rationally expect a truthful answer to this question from someone who violated guidelines, medical recommendations, and plain old common sense. In short, the person foolish enough to attend such an event and not voluntarily quarantine and be tested afterward – well, that person is also more likely to lie about it later. In my opinion, it is NOT wise to host an inside in-person game night or other gatherings until you have the ‘all clear.’”

That puts a damper on holiday cheer; but, as so often been said over the past several months, we live in “unprecedented times.” It’s time to brace ourselves for an unprecedented holiday season – amid the increased risk of flu and COVID-19. Good advice from the columnist: “We who live with long winters naturally pine for ways to socialize through the chill, but our patience will be rewarded if we continue to do everything possible to stop the spread of this pandemic.”

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.