The holidays could be a bit lonely for people this year, as government officials and media commentators have seemingly suggested that Americans should avoid any travel or family gatherings during Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a period of increasing isolation, could those suggestions be doing more harm than good?

Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “State of the Union” weekend broadcast, said in an interview segment with Dr. Anthony Fauci that “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible.”

Since Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and not really about ornaments and trees, neither Tapper nor Dr. Fauci have any say on whether or not Christians celebrate Christmas.

But the statement seems to coincide with the rather stringent guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding Thanksgiving, which is coming up next week.

Per the CDC website, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe.”

The loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic is considered by many as the second pandemic, which could actually increase the risk for certain health conditions.

The CDC suggestions won’t alleviate any of those concerns.

During the Thanksgiving season, the CDC argues that Americans should wear masks while hosting dinner, even if it’s outdoors; limit attendees from different households so that attendees can remain “at least six feet apart at all times;” open windows to increase ventilation, which will be difficult for those in cold weather states; avoid handshakes and hugs with others not from your household; avoid “singing and shouting”; bring extra hygiene supplies like masks and hand sanitizer; and, the coup de grace, prevent family pets from interacting with someone who is not from that household.

For my dog, who enthusiastically greets any and every person who comes to our door, that would be the ultimate frustration.

It could be assumed that the same rules would be applied to Christmas as well.

Bah humbug indeed.

While it’s incredibly important to protect vulnerable family members, Americans should decide what they are willing to risk, not state governors and health care officials.

I was supposed to travel to Kansas City in order to spend Thanksgiving with my extended family, my grandparents in particular, one of whom just tested positive for COVID. All are in their late 80s, and with spiking cases, we decided not to make the trip. But that doesn’t mean we won’t spend time with our immediate family here in Colorado, despite the fact that my parents could also be considered vulnerable to the virus.

While we need to take direction from our health officials, the freedom that this country offers means that Americans should be able to make the choice about who they want to spend the holidays with. Essentially encouraging isolation and distance is not healthy either, especially as people already struggle with feelings of loneliness during this time of year.

This holiday season, there are really no easy answers when it comes to the potential loss of family interactions. However, this Christmas, remember that the reason for the season isn’t the trees or caroling or Santa, but a child in a manger who became the Savior of the world.

Photo from Shutterstock