As Christmas approaches, staying safe and healthy is key considering the ongoing surge of COVID-19. While the vaccines may become available soon, now is not the time to become careless.
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Chief Hospital Executive at Bayonne Medical Center Dr. Vijay Singh shared how to celebrate Christmas safely.
According to Singh, the most important precaution is to avoid traveling. People with a cough, fever or any flu-like symptoms should avoid traveling, stay home, self-isolate, and get COVID-19 tested.
Those who must congregate should follow similar precautions Singh laid out for Thanksgiving. If you’re planning on attending small gatherings, you should have already begun self-isolating for 14 days.
If an individual hasn’t been in quarantine since Dec. 10, there is a risk of virus transmission. Even if individuals shows no symptoms, they could spread COVID-19.
When greeting family members, Singh said to avoid handshakes and hugs. Remain socially distant and avoid congregating in small areas.
There should be no more than two families at a get-together, with a limit of ten people.
Wear masks at all times, especially the elderly, children under 16, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing conditions. Singh said these subsets are prone to COVID-19 infections because of low immunity or compromised immune systems.
Avoid singing. While Christmas carols may be festive, singing releases potential COVID-19 aerosols and droplets in the surrounding air at a higher rate than just speaking.
Singh said meals should be prepared ahead of time and separately. No more than two to three people should be in the kitchen.
Spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals with others is very risky. Anyone could be an asymptomatic carrier, so it’s best to avoid high risk activities.
According to Singh, families should get takeout or have food delivered.
“Don’t spend too much time in the kitchen preparing for meals,” Singh said. “Because you will not wear a mask when you’re trying to cook. That’s the instinct of nature. Intuitively people won’t wear masks while cooking.”
The family should not congregate at the same table to eat at the same time.
Singh suggests staggering meal times to avoid everyone sitting at the table without masks. Elderly family members should eat first, and kids should eat with their parents.
While eating, masks should cover the nose while the mouth is uncovered.
An increase in cases has been correlated with holidays. Singh said that the current uptick in Bayonne can be linked to gatherings on Thanksgiving.
Singh had correctly predicted an increase in the number of cases and rate of hospitalizations in the wake of Thanksgiving. Prior to Thanksgiving, COVID-19 occupancy at Bayonne Medical Center was around 10 to 12 percent. Now, it’s anywhere from 22 to 25 percent, almost doubled.
Increases also occurred following Halloween and the 4th of July. Singh said the hospital is predicting and anticipating another uptick following Christmas.
Singh said that Bayonne Medical Center is not seeing patients as severely sick as they were during the first wave. Fewer patients require intubation on ventilators and do not require critical care.
According to Singh, the best way to stay safe and healthy during the Christmas season is to avoid traveling, avoid congregating, wear masks, and avoid those most at-risk of contracting COVID-19.
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