The holiday season is upon us, and this time of year is typically filled with communal meals and large gatherings of families and friends. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases have been increasing at an alarming rate and these traditional activities are not safe. This holiday season has the potential to further escalate the infection rate if proper precautions are not followed.
Local health officials and the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners are urging residents to follow safety precautions to prevent this escalation. The BOCC passed an updated public health order that went into effect Nov. 16. Additionally, the six public health directors in the region issued a public health statement through the Mid-America Regional Council. They are asking all metro residents to do the following:
- Avoid in-person interactions. If you can work from home, do so. If you can conduct business virtually, do so. If you can provide curbside service to keep customers from gathering inside, do so. Remember, the safest place to stay is your home.
- Wear masks everywhere, except with your immediate household. It doesn’t matter how much you trust your friends. This is not a trust issue. It’s a kindness and safety issue.
- Avoid gatherings over 10 people. To help our residents stay connected while limiting the threat of large outbreaks, we ask everyone to identify a small group — under 10 people — that you come in regular contact with. That could be your family or perhaps another household or two that you regularly interact with. It could be close friends or colleagues. We ask that you limit your personal interactions to this group. When you see members of your group, please continue to social distance and wear masks. If any member of your group gets sick or tests positive, that person MUST alert everyone in the group, immediately, so that they can quarantine and get a test. In other words, each group must do its own contact tracing. Why? Because of the extremely high number of new cases, some local health departments must prioritize their contact tracing to focus on the most vulnerable people. That might not be you or your friends.
- Self-quarantine [after] participating in large gatherings. If you have participated in a gathering such as a wedding, a party or a funeral, or if you have traveled to see others, it is our strong recommendation that you immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. This will limit the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others. No gatherings are safe. This cannot be emphasized enough. There are not enough protections that can be in place for weddings, services, events, festivals, or a party in your own backyard that will keep people you love safe from COVID-19. We ask that you go virtual with these gatherings, or wait.
- Hands, face, space. Now, more than ever, remember this: hands, face and space. Wash your hands regularly, cover your face with a mask and keep six feet of space between yourself and others.
So how can you celebrate the holidays safely? The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment created a nifty graphic with ideas for safely celebrating the holidays with family and friends.
You can also check out this guide from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services.
If you or your family member receives services form JCDS, we encourage you to please read our residential visitation guidance, which is designed to mitigate the risks if COVID-19 while still encouraging family connectedness. In addition to the residential visitation guidance currently in place, there are additional protocols we will be utilizing during the holiday season to help protect staff and people in service:
Residential Guidance for Group Living
- Individuals will quarantine for two weeks after Thanksgiving and Christmas and wear a surgical mask, as best they can, when they’re outside their bedroom.
- The post-Thanksgiving quarantine will be from Nov. 29 to Dec. 13.
- The post-Christmas quarantine will be from Dec. 27 to Jan. 10.
- If a house is in isolation due to positive COVID case, we do not recommend family members taking their loved ones home because they can actively spread the virus. Please understand this poses a significant risk to you and others as you will be exposed. JCDS is prepared to support your loved ones during their isolation period as we feel that is the safest way to mitigate spread.
- Day services will be provided in the home for all of group living from Nov. 25 through Jan. 11. We will review infection rates for Johnson County on Jan. 4 to determine if individuals are able to safely resume services on the Jan. 11. This decision impacts both those attending JCDS day services as well as external day services.
- People living at home with families and those from JCDS Independent Living may continue coming to Elmore Center.
- Individuals from JCDS Residential will be receiving day services in their homes Nov. 30 through Jan. 11. We will look at infection rates the week of Jan. 4 to determine if coming back on Jan. 11 is feasible.
All these changes can be difficult. We encourage you to utilize the Johnson County Mental Health Center, which has resources for residents needing mental health support.
If you follow the guidelines provided by local health officials, you and your family can celebrate the holidays safely and help our community reduce the spread of COVID-19.