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Holiday plans take back seat for health

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If anyone might be excused for skirting health guidelines this holiday season, Brandon Powell would be a good candidate. 

All four of his children are doing e-learning right now, and his wife, Elisa, is a teacher. Powell owns a lawn care company and has been working from home during the down season. There’s a lot going on at home during the day. 

“Everyone at this house is hot,” Powell said with a laugh. 

Powell and his family aren’t taking any chances this Christmas, though. They’ve maintained a quarantine state of mind throughout the pandemic, and he said there’s no reason to stop now. 

“We’ve come this far,” said Powell, who hasn’t been to his mother’s house since February and hasn’t seen his grandmother either. “Why pull back now when there’s a potential end to this? If I want to have a good year next year, I need to stay home now.” 

The decision to forego any kind of Christmas gathering is just a matter of accepting reality, Powell said, while still trying to make the best of the season. 

“As long we have good health, that is the blessing of Christmas,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of packages under the tree. It’s not necessarily hanging out with mom and grandparents. It’s that we have good health right now.” 

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are extensive, but the baseline is this: The safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is in your home with people who live in the same household. 

A national survey from YouGov found 13% of people plan to travel for Christmas. About a quarter of respondents said they would normally travel but won’t this year because of the pandemic, and 5% said they were unsure of their plans. 

“Even as we look to turn the corner with the first healthcare and front-line workers receiving vaccines in our community, we must remain as vigilant as ever to protect our friends, family, and neighbors from COVID-19,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement from the county health department reiterating the CDC’s recommendations. 

For any gatherings that include people from different households, the CDC recommends everyone should wear a mask and wash their hands regularly. 

There are several factors that contribute to how risky in-person gatherings might be, including indoor ventilation, how much exposure there would be during travel — at airports, bus stations, gas stations, etc. — and how strictly people adhere to social distancing. 

Even though it’s late December, the CDC still recommends outdoor gatherings if the weather is nice enough. 

It’s also important to consider how many COVID-19 cases there are in the community hosting the gathering and the community others are traveling from, as well as how long the gathering will last. According to the CDC, being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick.

Jerome Horne traveled with his brother from Indianapolis to suburban Atlanta to see their parents for Christmas. They skipped the airports and drove about 8 1/2 hours to get there, and Horne, who moved to Indianapolis in 2014, said he won’t catch up with old friends like he normally does.

Horne is confident his trip to Atlanta will be safe because he was able to limit his exposure to other people by using the rest of his vacation days at IndyGo, where he’s a ridership experience specialist, before leaving.

“I’m of the belief that if people have been able to isolate and get tested and feel safe, and they want to meet up with their immediate family, I think that’s doable,” he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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