As the holidays approach, residents are preparing to celebrate despite the threat of coronavirus — they’re decorating their homes with lights, buying holiday movies, and getting into the festive spirit.
Just on a smaller scale.
“I work on Christmas Day,” said local nurse Lisa Kocharovsky, “but on Christmas Eve, my department at work is closed, so I get to stay home and rest.”
She also said that there’s been a second wave of COVID cases increasing as of September’s end, compounded by the annual flu season starting.
“If someone has the flu, their immune system is suppressed and busy fighting the flu,” Kocharovsky said. “Therefore, they are more susceptible to catching any other germs around- these other germs might be anything from a stomach bug to the Corona virus.”
This is why, even though the two illnesses are unrelated, a person infected with the flu is more at risk for COVID than someone who isn’t.
“And, if a person has a severe flu and needs to be hospitalized in order to treat it, they become at risk of catching the coronavirus from another patient in the hospital,” Kocharovsky said.
Because of this, she and her fellow health care workers have to change out of their scrubs in the locker rooms after their shifts end, so they go home in regular street clothes with their working uniforms in laundry bags.
“Also, at work, we now have to wear goggles and face masks with every patient,” Kocharovsky said.
She said knows the importance of staying at home during the pandemic, so she won’t go to her family’s annual gathering or meet up with her friends this year.
A worker gets a Christmas tree ready at the Local Boys tree stand in Federal Way.
Instead, she plans on video calling her loved ones, and enjoying native Armenian dishes like baklava, a cake made with nuts and syrup; and dolma, which is ground beef wrapped in grape leaves.
Some Highline students have similar plans, although the menu probably won’t be the same.
“We usually make a Christmas Eve meal,” said first-year student Ethan Chen-Luong. His family’s go-to dish is hot pot — a Chinese soup made with veggies, tofu, meatballs, and rice noodles. Fried rice, fried noodles, duck, and pork will also be on the table.
“We will probably do facetime calls to celebrate my birthday since it’s a few days after Christmas,” Luong said. He’s also going to do a special event for his YouTube channel when the holidays come, but other than that, it’ll be a chill, laid-back month.
The family can’t enjoy their usual holiday trips, either. “We’re just going to be at home and we probably won’t do any family get-togethers,” Luong said.
But other families have different ideas.
“Our family might go on a road trip to the hot springs in either Oregon or Idaho,” computer science major Vika Kovachik says. “Also, this winter, I will be volunteering at Snoqualmie for skiing.”
Her family is still looking forward to gathering this Christmas break, especially for the food being prepared.
“Usually, we have Ukrainian and Russian food such as olivye salad, that’s kind of like potato salad but with more ingredients and different dressing. Along with that, we also have stuffed cabbage rolls, Russian meatballs, and aspic.”
“The governor set the restrictions until Dec. 14, so hopefully after that there won’t be these quarantine restrictions,” Kovachik said before Gov. Jay Inlsee extended COVID restrictions unitl Jan. 4.
Other students say they plan to be with family for the holidays.
“My overall plans for midwinter break are to spend the most time with my family and friends, but with COVID-19 still around, going out will limit my opportunities to leave my house,” said Amir Husnic.
The Local Boys stand also sells wreaths, decorations and kettle corn.
Some families will be celebrating Christmas and New Year’s this break.
“We celebrate Christmas,” said Sergio Chavez. “We also have a small gathering with friends and family for New Year’s.”
Some families will be missing out on spending time with family.
“I normally go see the rest of my family during the break, but with the pandemic this year my family will just be spending this Christmas with my household,” said Katelyn Sok, Highline student.
Some will continue with their traditions that they do during the holiday.
“Family traditions are to eat dinner at my grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and then open up secret Santa gifts when it turns 12 o’clock,” Chavez said.
“Opening gifts, having lots of laughs and a dinner with the family during Christmas is a constant tradition,” said Sok.
Some people think that it will not change what they do for midwinter break.
“I do not think that the pandemic will change much besides maybe the gifts that we get each other due to the income since there were harder times with jobs and salaries due to the pandemic,” Chavez said. “Though we will see our family, so nothing will change.”
Some people are saying it will be a different break this year than others.
“Yes, with the pandemic it will change what I normally do because if COVID didn’t exist then I would be going out on trips with my soccer team and be at school,” Husnic said. “Though with the pandemic there has been a limit to those things.”
“My holidays are going to be a lot more boring,” said Jasjot Singh. Singh was planning on visiting his grandmother in Toronto because he has not seen her in years.
However now with the virus around, he and his family do not want to risk traveling and potentially getting sick or getting their grandmother sick.
The pandemic also ground student Jennifer Scanchez’s plans.
“I was supposed to go to Mexico this year to spend Christmas with my grandparents,” she said. “But due to COVID I won’t be going anymore since I do not want to put them in risk since they are already getting old.”
So she had to change her holiday plans this year.
“I will instead be spending my Christmas with my mom and my two brothers,” Sanchez said.
Her family also usually throws a big party every year and they do secret Santa. This year they are cutting back to doing secret Santa with close family.
“Honestly, mine will not be affected because my families are still meeting up anyways,” said Andrew Dibble. Dibble said he understands that there are restrictions put into place, however his family still wants to meet because they already cancelled their plans for Thanksgiving due to COVID as well.
“We usually do two meet ups with both sides of the family and cook food,” Dibble said. His family is going to try and make thing as “normal” as possible.
Kocharovsky, the nurse, said that people should still stay inside even when restrictions are lifted.
“Large gatherings are dangerous at this time. As I’ve said before, we’ve had a rise in COVID in-patient admissions since September. Subsequently, many hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients, leaving us without enough beds for surgical patients. As a result, we have had to postpone many important surgeries that people need.”
“On a sadder note,” Kocharovsky said, “in the intensive care unit, we see cases of patients with the same last names. In other words, patients all from the same family.”