It’s August, which means we’re officially one month away from Walmarts and Costcos setting up their fake plastic tree displays in the great American tradition of Christmas creep. Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Premiere, which happens annually in July for some reason, has already whizzed us by. Starbucks’ red cups return in less than 100 days, according to this tracker that has no business existing.
But for once, it’s hard to get annoyed about the obscenely premature airplay of “Jingle Bells” in CVS. This year, the holidays loom as the unspoken “but what about—” when epidemiologists discuss the likelihood of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall. It’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving and the winter holidays without family or travel, but in the midst of an unchecked pandemic, it’s even scarier to think about carrying on as normal.
The United States is alone among peer nations in having endured record-high cases of coronavirus throughout the summer, despite this time of year typically being the low season for infectious disease transmission. That makes the coming winter look “Dickensianly bleak” indeed, according to a chilling new report this week in STAT; short of serious intervention, the peaks this winter could be even higher than those this spring. And that’s on top of the regular cold and flu season, which can tax hospitals even when there isn’t a pandemic. “I think November, December, January, February are going to be tough months in this country without a vaccine,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told STAT.
Wishfully thinking the pandemic will be resolved by the holidays is also naïve; a vaccine likely won’t be widely available until the middle of 2021 in a best-case scenario. In case you need further confirmation to check your jolly: the Radio City Rockettes, for the first time in their nearly 90-year history, have preemptively canceled their Christmas shows.
Without careful planning, you can see how the holidays have the potential to be a disaster. “We know that the biggest risk of spread for this virus is when meaningful numbers of people gather indoors for any extended period of time,” Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Atlantic. Hmmm, does that sound like something people tend to do as part of the celebration of a particular food-centric November holiday?
But an indoor gathering like a family dinner doesn’t only endanger grandma and grandpa; epidemiologists say it has the makings of a superspreader event. From a health and safety standpoint, Jha added that even having “people over in my house for two hours on a Sunday morning in December” seems unwise — much less hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Factor in out-of-town travel, and the outlook gets even grimmer. We already know that the exodus of people from New York City in March helped fuel outbreaks in….
Read more: The Week – Health