Guest Op-Ed: Staying Safe During the Holiday Season

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season, and hope that the remainder of this year brings you the opportunity to reflect on this year, and take time to prioritize your health and wellness. We know that this is a very different holiday season. This is usually the time for traditions and gathering with friends and family, and many people will be hoping for some normalcy. But, as we all know, this isn’t a normal year. That’s why this holiday season has to look different. 

We must continue to stay focused, and follow all the public health precautions, to keep our families, our communities, and ourselves safe. That means continuing to wear a mask, wash your hands on a regular basis, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, stay six feet apart from others, and avoid gatherings — especially indoor gatherings.

This vigilance is needed now more than ever. Since Thanksgiving, we’ve seen significant spikes in coronavirus cases, both in Boston and across Massachusetts, on a daily basis. We are also seeing more patients admitted to our hospitals. A big source of transmission is coming from indoor, private gatherings. That is something we can all avoid, and that responsibility sits on all of our shoulders.

So, like we did before Thanksgiving, we are urging everyone to only celebrate with the people you live with. There should be no holiday parties — that means no family gatherings or assemblies of more than 10 people who aren’t a part of your household. And we are strongly encouraging all Boston residents not to travel. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. 

I know that we are all tired of living with this virus, after nine long months of patience and sacrifices. Many of us look to the holiday season as a break from this pandemic, but we cannot let our guard down. This may lead to some difficult conversations with our families about what to expect this year, and the stakes are too high to take chances. But just because you can’t gather in person, doesn’t mean you can’t come together in other ways. Consider making these connections virtually. This is a time to be creative, and keep the holiday spirit alive. 

When you are doing your holiday shopping, we encourage you to shop locally. Our small businesses are the backbone of our neighborhoods, and they have been struggling during this difficult time. We are encouraging people to find safe ways to support neighborhood businesses. As a reminder, we offer free, two-hour parking on Saturdays at all parking meters across the City, and this will be available until the end of the year. 

I also ask everyone to think about the families who are struggling to make ends meet. With the needs in our communities greater than ever this year, collecting toys will be a challenge for families who can’t afford it. We have Toys for Tots donation boxes all across the City: at City Hall, firehouses, stand-alone BCYF centers, and City of Boston Credit Unions. If you can, please donate new, unwrapped toys to help Toys for Tots meet their goals, and help ensure every child and family can experience the joy of the holiday season. 

So as you are making your holiday plans this year, I hope you will keep these points in mind. We are all in this together. Let’s do our part to have a safe holiday season, so we can get back to seeing the ones we love in the new year. Thank you, and I wish you and your families a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.

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