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Cancer and COVID-19: Celebrate a Safe Holiday This Season

November 16, 2020

Texas recently hit a grim milestone with COVID-19 cases surpassing 1 million. As cases continue to increase across the U.S., families are faced with difficult decisions about how to safely navigate the holiday season.

Those with weakened immune systems, including many cancer patients, are more susceptible to viruses, including COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gatherings – including small household gatherings – are important contributors to the rise in COVID-19 cases. It’s also flu season, an additional public health risk for cancer patients.

“During a time of year that is focused on celebration, many families are assessing the risks associated with their typical holiday plans and travel. During the holidays we eat together, we hug our loved ones, and come into close contact with others. It’s very difficult to eat together with a mask on at a safe distance,” said Jeana Faske, BSN, RN, OCN, infection control specialist and nurse educator at Texas Oncology.

An important factor in slow the spread of COVID-19 is not just the people cancer patients are around, but who those individuals have been around as well.

“It doesn’t matter if a patient is only seeing a few close family members if those family members are around others who are not following safety protocols or are often out and about. It’s more important than ever to consider who is coming into contact with the patient. Where do those individuals spend their time? Where do their family members spend time? Are they going into the office or out to eat?” Jeana said, emphasizing the importance of following CDC safety protocols – especially during the holidays.

In addition to finding alternative ways to celebrate the joy of the season, Jeana said cancer patients, their caregivers and other close contacts should take proactive measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • Check local and state health department websites for the latest COVID-19 infection rates before hosting or attending a holiday gathering.
  • Consider whether you or anyone you plan to visit over the holidays has a compromised immune system or is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Plan a small in-person gathering with only people who live in your household and coordinate a virtual celebration with others.

“The holiday season will be an emotional time, but the pandemic isn’t going anywhere,” she added. “By carefully considering the safest way to navigate holiday gatherings, families can create meaningful experiences and memories without putting themselves or their loved ones at risk.”

For more information on safely navigating the holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Oncology recommends the following resources:

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.