Published April 6, 2020
Postponing spring holiday family gatherings this year due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic may be the best option, suggests Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases.
While some people might be tempted to bend the rules of social distancing and host or attend a family gathering to celebrate Easter, Passover or Ramadan, Russo says that is not advisable unless a rigorous plan is put in place.
Even then, the risk will not be zero, so the importance of the gathering needs to be balanced with potential consequences, especially if some family members are vulnerable and are at risk for a bad outcome if they become infected with the new coronavirus.
“A common question I’m getting is, ‘I want to have a small group gathering for Easter, can I do it safely?’” says Russo, a physician with UBMD Internal Medicine. “The answer is no, you can’t do so with 100 percent certainty.”
The reason, he says, is that asymptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus makes it impossible to be sure that you are not infected. As a result, one can minimize, but not completely eliminate, risk.
“It is possible that someone was infected but not symptomatic. That person could be infectious, even after a 14-day quarantine, because we still don’t know how long someone can shed infectious particles after infection,” explains Russo, who is also a physician with the VA Western New York Healthcare System.
“So if you have close contact, kiss or eat from the same dish, or use the same dishes or share food, the virus could be transmitted from an asymptomatic person in that manner,” he says. “It is also possible, albeit rare, that the incubation period could extend beyond 14 days.”
For those individuals who are determined to gather together to break fast on Ramadan, or break out the butter lambs or tzimmes anyway, there are ways to minimize the dangers.
Russo offers the following tips:
“It’s impossible to drive the risk to zero, but these strategies will minimize risk,” Russo notes.