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Viewpoint: We can keep holiday cheer in a COVID world

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By Dr. David Tam

Dr. David Tam | PHOTO COURTESY OF BEEBE HEALTHCARE

As we enter this holiday season, it is difficult to consider the choices that we will all have to make to keep ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and at Beebe, our patients safe.

During the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza season, many gather to share gifts and celebrate sacred religious days. Many also gather to ring in the New Year every Dec. 31.

I have always loved Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, having just emigrated from Japan, Thanksgiving was a truly memorable American holiday. For me, five Chinese families would join together to watch USC football, play the board game Risk, and of course enjoy a unique blend of traditional American and Asian dishes.

While I think of those memories fondly, this year my family will be creating some new traditions. COVID-19 is still here with us and the data shows that infection and hospitalization rates continue to rise across the country and here in Sussex County.

We must reinvent some of the traditions of our families and friends to keep each other safe. Just as all traditions look a little different from household to household, everyone will likely come up with their own new traditions this year.

Team Beebe is all about caring for our community, so we felt the best way to demonstrate that this year was to have our team come up with some ideas on how to celebrate this year’s holidays – COVID style.

Many suggested creating virtual holidays and chatting on the phone while eating dinner outside in the fresh air or inside in a larger space with the windows open.

In addition to those great ideas, some team members had even more original ideas that we just had to share with you in the hopes of making your 2020 holiday a little bit brighter. We’ll be sharing all of these ideas on social media throughout the holiday season.

Create a letter chain

Linda Schultz, a systems analyst at Beebe, came up with a wonderful idea about creating a letter chain of the folks that would normally attend your holiday get together.

Write your own page briefly that shares your sentiments for the holiday – something you would share if you were together – don’t make it too long to encourage those down the line to keep it going.

Mail the letter, the instructions, and the mailing list. The person who receives it will do the same, and when the letter makes its way back to you, the circle is complete.

Many of our other team members also suggested sending care packages.

Let the kids cook!

Tara Simpson our manager for organizational development will just be having her family of four at home this year (and that’s OK too!).

She says to change things up this year and get the whole family involved, each member will choose to make something. It can be anything, doesn’t have to be the traditional things but it’s their choice, they buy the ingredients, they make it all themselves.

Exchange those family recipes, find something special

Pam Smith, RN and clinical review auditor (and also wonderful at sewing masks), suggested a recipe exchange. Mail it, zoom it, but make it special if everyone is apart this year. There could also be a wreath exchange if you are handy enough to do that (I know I’m not!)

Holiday bingo and craft boxes

Kelley Mills, human resources specialists, says send out bingo cards in the mail previously. Then create a Zoom meeting for Bingo.

She also suggested this great idea for kids, a craft or activity box: Provide a simple craft such as decorating a cut-out tree with stickers/pom-poms or something to paint. Also could provide a baking box with simple ingredients for a hot cocoa.

One more idea from Kelley who really shared some great ideas was to surprise someone with a festive mug and drop it off at the door with a sign that says, “I’ve been mugg’d!” Hopefully they will pass it along. You can keep it anonymous or not.

One more thank you

No matter how you celebrate this year, please just remember to keep the COVID-19 safety measures in mind: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. Thank you all and thank you to the many team members who shared their ideas. I wish we could fit them all!


Dr. David Tam serves as president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare.

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