A COVID-19 love letter: This is why we can’t get together this holiday

Vincent Lam, The Globe and Mail
December 21, 2020

ear ‘A’,

I should have told you earlier. I had misgivings, but not wanting to be a killjoy, and out of love for everyone whom we normally see, I went along with holiday planning. Also, I had sheer hope that this relentless COVID-19 thing would just settle down for the holiday season. Instead it is getting worse, killing more people, tearing families apart, and the hospitals are perched on the brink. I am so sad to write this, but we need to call off the in-person gathering this year.

Have you seen all that stuff ‘B’ has been posting – that rinsing our noses with saline, eating garlic, taking vitamins, popping certain pills, and drinking lots of booze will prevent COVID-19? We all know that is bogus, but can you imagine what shape ‘B’ will be in when he arrives? What is clear is that gathering indoors is a prime setup for the spread of COVID-19. That’s exactly why it is so hard right now! People gathering indoors – sharing warmth within the cold night of winter is a vital soul-enriching pleasure of this season. But right now, out of love for one another, we must connect at a distance.

Did you read that ALL-CAPS E-MAIL from ‘C’ – that if we all self-isolate first, then we’re good to go? ‘D’ replied that she would “try her best?” Can we ask everyone to do that and believe that they will? Self-isolation means no trips to the grocery store, no one chatting with their neighbour in the yard, no children in school or programs. And the math goes like this – COVID-19 can incubate for 14 days, and someone can be infectious for 10 days following symptoms. So, ‘E’ could get a little dry morning cough on Day 14, decide it was nothing, and 10 days later he could be spreading more than his infectious humour. And what about asymptomatic transmission? It’s a thing – people with no symptoms can spread COVID-19. Pass the gravy?

‘F’, who didn’t get to Vegas this year because of COVID-19, says what we’re all thinking … chances are that it will be okay. One get-together. The season wouldn’t be the same without it. We deserve it. This has been a long slog and everyone is sick of being told, don’t-do-this-don’t-go-there. I feel the pain. Everyone has tried hard, stuck to the rules, so can we please relax a bit? But when you bet at the casino, you risk a little for the chance to win a lot. Here, the risk is losing a lot.

As usual, ‘G’ agrees with ‘F’, which is why she keeps pointing out that most people who contract COVID-19 get better. True, but some get severely ill, and some die. They die alone, in an ICU. They can only see their family on a screen. So here’s the gamble: If someone contracts COVID-19 at our celebration and dies in an ICU, we’re all going to watch it on-screen while quarantined and alone. What if the price for getting together is to watch a loved one die via video? And what about all the people whom we have never met who could be exposed, and who could become ill and die, if our gathering spreads this virus? And we lose our future too. That’s the other risk. Would it ever be the same, if we got together this year, and then as a result, someone is missing for every year to come?

So let’s celebrate differently! Make everyone’s favourite dishes! Portion them out and drop them off! Give gifts or donate in this tough year! Fire up the laptops and the video chats! Mercifully, ‘H’ won’t show photos of all her trips. We can play online games and there won’t be any missing pieces. We can raise a toast that we all made it this far, and another for the frontline workers. We will be protecting them by staying apart. Anyways, we’re postponing the gathering until after the pandemic – not cancelling!

The vaccination, and the end of this pandemic, is on the horizon. But we have to get there. A year from now, we will have all had the opportunity to be immunized. We can gather in-person and reminisce about how we got through this. Gathering with loved ones is an important tradition, which grows out of respect for the past. Love and tradition are also meant to hold us together for the future. For this holiday season, we need to delay the gatherings that we cherish, in order to protect our shared enjoyment of the future. Let’s all celebrate physically apart, while remaining closer than ever in spirit.

Yours, V