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The holidays must be different this year

EDITOR:

When I want my thoughts to reach a larger audience I don’t turn to Facebook, I come here. My hometown. I would rarely be kept away from Escanaba for more than six months at a time, yet it has been over 16 months since relaxing in my mother’s house, going for a run to Ludington Park, eating at our favorite local restaurants, playing pool with my dad, and taking my kids to the library. We currently live overseas and had a much anticipated trip home planned for April 2020, then it became clear that COVID-19 was not going to miraculously disappear. We had hopes of returning for Christmas, but these hopes have been shattered. We could travel, but picking up the virus and bringing it to our loved ones is a risk we’re not willing to take. And frankly, I’m not confident that we could avoid getting sick while in the U.S. even with strict adherence to preventive protocols.

I have family members in Delta County who have done everything right (masks, social distancing, limited outings, etc.) and that hasn’t been enough to shield them from COVID-19. Why hasn’t it been enough? It would’ve been enough… if everyone else was wearing masks and social distancing and taking this virus seriously. If you are out in public without a mask, gathering with others, or running nonessential errands, please think about how your actions are impacting others. Yes, you have individual rights, but you are also a member of society in which you have a duty to not endanger your fellow citizens. Right now, your fellow citizens are in danger. According to recent analysis by the Washington Post, the likelihood of at least one person being COVID-19 positive at a 10-person event in Delta County is 60-80%. That’s a lot of preventable cases and deaths. If you haven’t already, please cancel your plans to gather for the upcoming holidays. If you choose to gather, you will almost certainly be contributing to the spread of this virus. We have already asked our healthcare workers throughout the U.S. to make incredible sacrifices, let’s help them by wearing masks, social distancing, and not participating in events (even small gatherings) that are likely to spread the virus.

As diplomats living overseas, we’ve spent many holidays away from extended family. We chose this lifestyle and it has been hard to willingly sacrifice long standing family traditions; I imagine it is even more painful being forced to forgo traditional gatherings. But you can do this, you can do hard things (a growth mindset mantra my 6-year old and I say when we face challenges). Instead of focusing on the personal inconvenience, take this opportunity to be creative and try new virtual traditions (even if only for this year). Our children are watching (and somehow even hear our whispers from the other room) to see how we respond to the stress of COVID-19. Let’s take this opportunity to teach them resilience, embrace creative alternatives, and practice gratitude and kindness.

Andrea Johnson

Escanaba

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