Opinion | COVID-19 does not need to stop the holidays

There are many ways to make this season memorable without risking you and your family’s health.



A snowman is seen sitting on top of a trashcan on the Pentacrest on Oct. 19, 2020.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

Winter — the season that most Midwesterners spend holed up in their houses with fireplaces aflame, feasting on casseroles of undisclosed ingredients, and frolicking in the snow when the windchill creeps above a reasonable temperature.

I usually spend my winters sledding with friends and enjoying my grandparent’s company around the holidays. This year is different, however, as the pandemic rages in the U.S. More than 243,000 cases have been confirmed in Iowa since Sunday.

While we should take precautions against COVID-19 spreading in our neighborhoods, that doesn’t mean we should let it dampen our holiday spirit. There are many different ways communities are bringing people together without it being up close and personal.

Local zoos are putting up festive lights and art pieces to bring festive cheer to communities while raising money for the animals in the sanctuary. There are also scavenger hunts to help teach the community about the different animals cared for by the zoo.

Winter wagon rides with improved precautions are still running in downtown Iowa City. There are online events including gingerbread house competitions to bring people together over a shared experience without being face to face. Scavenger hunts focused on finding elves in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall can bring kids a sense of joy despite pandemic worries. There is also an online holiday market for those still looking for gifts to give their loved ones this holiday.

On the topic of gift giving, annual gift exchanges between family members — at least, in my family — are up for debate. Some members are upset that it feels more like sending each other Amazon boxes instead of wrapped gifts.

But precautions can be taken for gift giving as well, such as wrapping the gift and leaving it to sit for a few days before or after delivery. Washing your hands after opening the presents is just as effective, and you can get your mail on time. Digital donations are also welcome — gift cards are never a bad gift because it means that the receiver can buy exactly what they want — instead of getting a subpar gift from a distant family member who knows next to nothing about them.

There are plenty of crafts that can be made that do not break the bank. Give someone a warm blanket this holiday and they will always remember you every time they use it.

Epidemiologists warn of a holiday spike without proper precautions in place. With vaccines hopefully arriving to the public in the coming months, we just need to hold out for a few months longer until we can resume some manner of normal social life. Epidemiologists surveyed by the New York Times say if highly effective vaccines are widely distributed this winter and spring, we’ll likely be able to resume normal activities in the summer.

As long as people stay safe and smart when it comes to taking precautions against COVID-19 — wearing masks, washing hands, using hand sanitizer, staying with immediate family members within the household — this holiday season can still be celebrated. Everyone should know Zoom by now — and, if not, there are always regular phones.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.