Celebrating safely: how to handle the holidays during a pandemic

By Becca Schimmel
WUWM 89.7 FM
October 27, 2020

The holiday season is fast approaching, beginning with Halloween this weekend. The city of Milwaukee is not officially recognizing trick-or-treat hours in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But there are still ways to safely reimagine the costumed event.

“Some of the things we can do are … to have a candy hunt in your own yard,” Amanda Simanek says. “So if you have some old Easter eggs lying around, we can merge these two celebrations. Put candy inside and hide them in the yard.”

Simanek is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She’s been working with Dear Pandemic, a group of volunteers curating COVID-19 information and suggestions on how to stay safe during the holidays.

Cases of coronavirus have been increasing across Wisconsin. Simanek says that could be because people began spending time with more people over the summer, but it may be time to change that.

“You know, we all sort of ventured out and maybe started to interact more or to increase the social circle. And I think as we head into winter, it’s time to sort of start to reign in that bubble and tighten up that social circle again,” she says.

Halloween isn’t the only holiday coming up though. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are all celebrations known to bring people together — the exact opposite of what is being recommended to stem the spread of the virus. Simanek says it’ll be a difficult decision for many Milwaukeeans, but there are some precautions people can take.

“One way that we can plan ahead and get together with family that we haven’t seen, that we want to celebrate a holiday like Thanksgiving with is to try for all people who are going to meet up to engage in a two-week self-quarantine,” Simanek explains.
If a self-quarantine prior to traveling isn’t possible, Simanek says you may want to adjust the way you celebrate the winter holidays. She suggests limiting the time indoors, wearing masks, washing hands and thinking about just meeting up for pie instead of a whole meal.

Listen to the interview.