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Opinion | Don’t treat this like a normal Christmas

“This Christmas, please think twice about gatherings with people who aren’t in your home.”


Our friend wanted her family over for a big Thanksgiving this year. Despite warnings from local, state, and federal officials to avoid big gatherings, she ached to see her family and friends. That is understandable. It’s been a long pandemic.

The only time since March that Veronica, my wife, has been around other people was when she had doctors’ appointments she had to make. Then, she mostly saw doctors and nurses. I have seen few of my friends, but I do teach at UAB so I have seen colleagues and students regularly, but sometimes only on Zoom.

But this Christmas, please think twice about gatherings with people who aren’t in your home. Yet Thursday as I prepared to write this column, once again millions of people are taking to the airways and highways to visit family for today’s Santa party.

My “daughter” and her wife who live in San Diego have extended family not too far away in Nevada and Arizona. They are spending Christmas only with each other. Most of my closest friends are doing the same.

Veronica and I certainly are staying put. We’ve got just about all the streaming services, and my wife is a wonderful cook and we have great conversation. Mostly.

My younger sister who lives in Florida texted me a Merry Christmas on Christmas Eve because, she tells me, she and her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter “are traveling tomorrow early afternoon, and I don’t want to miss sending you a text.” She told me she and her family had COVID the week before Thanksgiving.

“Thankfully our cases were moderate …,” she said. “We are better, just dealing with some lingering effects (stamina and brain fog).”

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And now they are traveling for Christmas? SMH. We still don’t know all the lingering effects or permanent damage of COVID-19. Many survivors are left with serious health issues, some leading to lung transplants, serious heart issues, or other disabilities that’ll never be cured.

Once again, let’s look at the numbers, at least as of midday Thursday. Just the numbers.

  • Alabama: 338,801 cases. 4,676 deaths. 2,535 hospitalizations. (All of these are records.)
  • United States: 18.5 million cases. 326,000 deaths
  • The United States is identifying about 228,000 new cases a day, and more than 3,400 deaths. Per day. Recently, new cases in the country approached 300,000.

Per day. PER DAY!

Editor in Chief Bill Britt writes about the empty chair at the table this Christmas in his Thursday column. Or, as Britt put it, empty chairs, as in plural. This virus has eliminated entire families.

Some died because they believed the virus was a hoax and participated in risky behaviors, like gathering unmasked at parties. More than a few religious leaders died or got sick because they believed God would protect them. Many, many died in nursing homes and long-care-living facilities, because with this virus, they are the most vulnerable.

But make no mistake: This virus sickens and kills and disables in every age group.

One of my friends on Twitter asked the community for advice: “My hubby is deployed and I’m trying to decide whether or not to go see my daughter, grandkids, my brother, and nieces in Arkansas. Give me your honest opinion.”

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My honest response: “Do not. For one year, do not. Our friend had a big Thanksgiving. She is on a ventilator now. Do not.”

I know the pain of missing family and friends for a celebration, for tradition. But that friend I wrote about, the one I mentioned when I opened this essay, she still is on that ventilator, and her prognosis is grim. Because she wanted a big Thanksgiving and didn’t think the virus would touch her.

If you gather in a big group today for Christmas, look around that table. Exchange gifts and offer toasts. Exactly who are you willing to see missing at the table next year, or who you’ll be reminded you don’t have to purchase a gift for? This is not a normal Christmas or a normal era. Please don’t treat it like it is.

Video call or voice call your friends and family members. Hold a Zoom Christmas.

I know that’s not as satisfying as being in the same room, as hugging, and laughing together. I’ve been hosting Zoom classes for more than nine months now. But you CAN do it. For one year. You can. Do it.

Merry Christmas.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.



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