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Holiday advice: Tough medicine, but best to take it

The following is from Arlington officials, encouraging alternatives to traditional holidays celebrations this year in the light of Covid-19, including cautionary lessons from Canada.

As you plan for Thanksgiving, state and local officials are asking residents to stay safe this holiday season. If you host a celebration, keep it small. If you are considering travel, be aware of Massachusetts' travel orders.

We have all made extraordinary sacrifices to keep our case numbers down so we can keep schools and businesses open in Arlington. As the weather moves us more indoors, where the virus thrives, let’s continue to do our part to disrupt the spread of the virus.

“We are all thankful for the efforts of many residents and businesses during the pandemic to keep everyone safe,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “However, Covid-19 doesn’t take a holiday. As Canada has recently learned, gathering at Thanksgiving is high risk. It’s best to minimize your gatherings this holiday season to household members or find alternative ways to celebrate.”

Canada's experience

Canada held its Thanksgiving in early October, and officials there have attributed its recent surge in positive Covid-19 cases to the holiday. Health officials in the U.S. have been using Canada’s experience as a cautionary tale on what to expect in the U.S. if the public chooses to participate in traditional holiday gatherings during this crucial time in the life cycle of the pandemic. 

“No one wants to spread the virus to loved ones.” said Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of schools. “However, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and after-school gatherings of larger groups all raise the risk of seeing more positive cases of Covid-19, which can result in Arlington moving toward remote learning and the subsequent disruptions this change will make.”

The Center of Disease Control and the state Department of Public Health have compiled high-, moderate- and low-risk activities and advise to avoid high-risk activities during the pandemic.

“We have the ability to curb the spread of the virus,” said Christine Bongiorno, Arlington’s director of Health & Human Services. "We’re hopeful about the news we are hearing and preparing for when a vaccine will arrive. Until then, we all need to be take these warnings seriously as we enter the holiday season. We are currently seeing a steady uptick in cases, and if people participate in traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, we will see additional increases in our community and beyond.”


This year for the holidays, or any celebration, it is recommended you participate in lower-risk activities, such as virtual gatherings or household-only celebrations. 

Any time you’re near people you don’t live with: 

  • Wear a mask when not eating or drinking;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water;
  • Stay at least six feet apart from others;
  • Consider if those around you may be at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions, and take extra precautions; and
  • If gathering indoors, improve ventilation by opening windows and doors.
Lower-risk celebrations
  • Limit in-person holiday gatherings to only people you live with or limit to a small group of individuals with whom you are regularly in contact.
  • Gatherings with more people pose more risks. As a reminder, gatherings in Massachusetts are subject to gathering-size limits.
  • Keep visits short – gatherings that last longer pose more risk than short gatherings.
Avoid these activities
  • Avoid sharing food and drinks.
  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging. Wave and verbally greet others instead.
  • Avoid singing, dancing and shouting. These activities increase your chances of catching Covid-19 through the air.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings with people at a higher risk for severe illness from Covid-19, such as older adults and people with certain medical conditions.

All residents are also encouraged to get the flu vaccine. For additional information, please refer to the holiday guidance provided by the CDC at

Oct. 26 through Nov. 19, 2020: Tracking Covid cases, deaths in town

 This news announcement, which includes opinion, was published Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

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