City of Alexandria and Alexandria Health Department Urge Residents to Choose Virtual Options as Safer Holiday Activities

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City of Alexandria and Alexandria Health Department Urge Residents to Choose Virtual Options as Safer Holiday Activities

For Immediate Release: December 11, 2020 

The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) strongly urge residents to choose virtual celebrations this holiday season to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks, rather than traditional traveling and indoor gatherings. 

Many people travel to visit loved ones as part of their traditional holiday celebrations. However, because those infected with COVID-19 can be contagious without having symptoms, the best way to lower risk of exposure and control the spread — particularly to those at higher risk of severe illness — is to avoid traveling and interacting with people outside your immediate household. If travel cannot be avoided, know the risks and consider getting tested for COVID-19 both before and after traveling, especially when visiting or returning to people at higher risk of severe illness. 

Executive Order Seventy-Two, which takes effect in Virginia on December 14, prohibits social gatherings of more than 10 people who do not already live together, and requires all individuals to remain in their residences between midnight and 5 a.m.

This year, the best gift for friends and family is continued good health. With COVID-19 cases surging, it is more important than ever to stay home, wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of distance, and wash your hands frequently. The following guidance offers suggestions for communicating that you will not be attending in-person gatherings, recognizing and managing holiday stress and anxiety, and reducing the risks of holiday celebrations. 

Telling Loved Ones You’re Not Coming for the Holidays

Break the news to family and friends that you won’t be participating in usual holiday celebrations by following these tips:

  • Acknowledge feelings of disappointment and understand that you may initially receive emotional responses to your decision.
  • Explain that this decision is made out of love for yourself and those you care about.
  • Remind them that this decision helps ensure that everyone is around for future celebrations.
  • Offer alternative ways to celebrate.

Managing Mental Health Effects

The holiday season often causes a rise in stress and depression. This year, there might be additional stress, sadness or anxiety because holiday plans look different. Manage stress by sticking to healthy habits, learning to say no, taking a breather, and reaching out to friends and family.

Despite your best efforts, you could still experience physical issues, inability to sleep, irritability, hopelessness, and difficulty dealing with routine chores. If you or a loved one are in need of Emergency Mental Health Services, call 703.746.3401.

Reducing the Risks

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for the spread of COVID-19. 

Choose these lower risk options:

  • Participate in a charitable walk or run to benefit a local organization and get some fresh air and exercise. Many 5K or marathon races are now being held virtually so that you run on your own rather than in a group of racers.
  • Have virtual cooking activities to share and make traditional recipes with friends and family.
  • Participate in a virtual gift exchange with friends. Buy a small gift online, have it shipped directly to your friend, and open the gifts at the same time while talking online. 
  • Decorate your house and yard. 

Although they are not safe substitutes for virtual activities, the following precautions may help lower the risk of transmission if you gather:

  • Limit the number of guests to no more than 10 and ensure they remain at least 6 feet apart at all times.
  • Avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs.
  • Host outdoor, rather than indoor, gatherings. 
  • Require guests to wear masks even outdoors, except when eating or drinking. 
  • Encourage guests to wash their hands often with soap and water. Alternatively, use hand sanitizer. 
  • Keep a list of those in attendance in case you later need to let them know of a COVID-19 exposure.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces or shared items, such as serving utensils.

Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19, has symptoms of the virus, or is at risk for severe illness if infected should especially not attend in-person gatherings.

Visit alexandriava.gov/Holidays to find more information on how to stay safe this holiday season.

For inquiries from the news media only, contact Andrea Blackford, Senior Communications Officer, at andrea.blackford@alexandriava.gov or 703.746.3959.

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This news release is available at alexandriava.gov/119374

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