Holidays in a Pandemic By: Maggie Wolf

In past years, when AAPS students were released from school the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, many rushed home to pack for vacation, while others prepared their houses for the arrival of extended family members. This year, most students simply closed their computers and prepared for a Thanksgiving away from most of their friends and family.

The holidays are usually a time of non-stop social interaction. However, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S., safely connecting with friends and extended family poses a unique challenge. Helen Schmitter, a senior at CHS, comes from a big family and is used to spending her holiday breaks with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“My mom comes from a family with nine kids,” said Schmitter. “We usually have a huge turkey and a huge ham, but this year we're just doing [the holidays] with our own little family.”

Schmitter’s is one of many families who have chosen to sacrifice their holiday reunions to prioritize the health of themselves and their communities.

“It's always fun to see everyone because it's a really close family overall,” said Schmitter. “I have three or four cousins my age who I’m pretty close with, and I usually see, so it's gonna be sad missing [Thanksgiving and Christmas], but also, my grandma is 91 or 92, and I have some aunts and uncles who are in their 60s, so there [are] definitely older people that we don't want to expose.”

Though it may be disappointing to spend the holidays apart from friends and relatives, Schmitter says that her family is getting creative in looking for ways to connect.

“I think we will probably have a big group call at some point,” Schmitter said. “Also, some of our neighbors that we’re close friends with have [outdoor] heaters, so if things get safer, maybe we'll go in their backyard with masks and do a little something over there.”

Hannah Bernstein is another CHS senior whose family has had to adapt their holiday plans due to COVID-19. Bernstein and her family traveled to Florida the Sunday before Thanksgiving to visit extended family. However, recognizing the risks this trip may pose to themselves and their family, they have taken all possible precautions to minimize their exposure.

“I'm quarantining before we go on the plane, and then once we get there, we're going to get tested,” said Bernstein. “We're staying in an apartment [with] just me and my mom, so we won't really be exposing anyone, and while we're there we're not going to be seeing anyone except family, so I'll be even more isolated than I am here.”

The trip and the potential exposure it brings about are certainly concerning to Bernstein’s family. However, having not seen most of their relatives since the initial shutdown back in March, Bernstein and her family agree that this visit will be a welcome break from life at home.

“[The trip] is very uncertain, and the safety of it is concerning, but I'm happy to be going to warm weather because, now that it’s cold [in Michigan], I probably won't be allowed to see friends,” said Bernstein. “I'll still be doing school from down there, but I'll get to see my cousins. I think it will be a good break because I [won’t] be tempted to go hang out with people, and I can actually go outside there and not freeze.”