Most are changing plans this holiday season

The COVID-19 vaccines have brought hope this holiday season, but health experts say safety measures still need to be taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Most community leaders in Northeast and Central Wisconsin are staying the course and changing plans this month with friends and family – plans that typically include get-togethers.

During a virtual “Community Leader Conversation” on December 18 hosted by ThedaCare, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner, more than 150 attendees were asked: Are you adjusting your holiday plans this year? The vast majority of participants, 94 percent, responded yes.

They are encouraging poll results for Imran A. Andrabi, MD, President and CEO of ThedaCare. “We are still very much in the most serious of circumstances and, as with every evolution of this pandemic thus far, our communities are looking to their leaders for guidance. We must continue to model the safe behaviors we know are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 until we have defeated this virus.”

Dr. Andrabi notes the top “safe behaviors” that are making a difference in this pandemic are –

  • Wearing a face mask
  • Keeping your distance in public (at least 6 feet apart)
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Avoiding social gatherings (especially with more than 10 people)

“While the COVID-19 vaccines bring promise, it will be many months before we can safely gather. We must stay vigilant in our continued efforts to prevent infections by finding new and safe ways to experience the joy and warmth this season brings and create a healthier 2021 for all,” Dr. Andrabi adds.


How exactly will community leaders be adjusting their holiday plans with friends and family? Maximizing the technology that many of us have grown to use more frequently this past year is one main way – video chats via FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet and other apps. Many leaders are using them in unique ways to see family and friends virtually. Other leaders are discovering different ways to connect creatively. They shared what they’re doing during the Community Leader Conversation.

Online Adventures Using FaceTime or Zoom

  • Lots of video chat with grandkids. Family trivia competition.
  • We’ve read Hanukkah stories and lit our own menorahs.
  • Making (Norwegian dough) lefse and cookies with family.
  • Calling Santa.
  • Online church service.

Venturing Out Safely Close to Home

  • Caroling to my parents from outside their home.
  • Outdoor gift exchange under heaters.
  • Making gift baskets for families and friends and dropping them off on their porches.
  • Short, physically-distanced outside visits and delivery of gifts.

Other Safe Ideas

  • Priority mail delivery of presents.
  • Meals for the homeless.
  • Planning a summer gathering to look forward to.
  • Gathering in only “bubble” groups of four or less, safe distance, masks, etc. People who would normally travel via airlines are not coming home for Christmas. Tough, but next year!


While the COVID-19 situation in Wisconsin remains solemn this holiday season and will continue to require steadfast diligence from all, the vaccine is a bright spot, another tool to fight the virus. Local leaders and frontline workers wish much more for the community in the New Year – starting with unity, peace, joy and compassion. They expressed their wishes during the Community Leader Conversation.

Good Tidings & Cheer

  • Strength and perseverance.
  • Be able to see and care for each other.
  • Beat COVID!
  • Health and Happiness.
  • (Show) acts of kindness and love.

Safe Behaviors Instilled

  • Continuing to follow safety protocol and mitigation measures.
  • (Encourage) people to stay home and safe.
  • 2020 isn’t the end of the pandemic. I wish everyone would continue to wash hands, mask and social distance until we get the “all clear” from the scientists.
  • Patience and not getting careless because of the vaccine.
  • Everyone pulling together to beat this common enemy.

High Hopes

  • Celebrate the here and now, (and) pay attention to the silver linings learned during this pandemic.
  • Higher than 70% participation in vaccines.
  • To be able to be done with masks, when the time is right and safe.
  • We recover even stronger than ever together.
  • Return to more normal lives especially for the aged and youth.
  • Kindness and understanding to others with different viewpoints.
  • Nursing staff can remain strong.

Finally, here are some thoughts from frontline nurses at ThedaCare – our health care heroes in this pandemic – on both how their holiday plans are changing this year and what they wish for our communities in the New Year.

“While vaccines offer an exciting milestone, they in no way suggest the pandemic is over,” Dr. Andrabi adds. “We hope the community takes action along with their leaders to keep everyone safe this holiday season and in 2021.”

Dr. Andrabi is hopeful community members will respond accordingly. “We will move forward safely, together. Our best days are ahead of us.”