This will be our second pandemic Christmas and it was starting to look like it would be a big improvement over the previous year. COVID cases were going down, enough vaccines had finally arrived to the point that shots for minors and even boosters were becoming widely available, and even the annoying face shield requirement was finally lifted. Towns and cities all over the country had lowered alert levels or whatever it is the IATF calls quarantine classifications these days, and although we still have no idea what those CQ’s or levels really mean, there is the general feeling that things are finally looking up.
Well that was until the Omicron variant came along and almost ruined everything.
When news of this new and heavily mutated version of the coronavirus first broke, it sent the world into panic. It could be worse than Delta, it was more infectious, it could be vaccine-resistant, and it could be deadlier. We may have to go back into our holes. Our Department of Health was even preparing to pull out its secret weapon and make us use face shields once more.
However, as the scientists dug deeper and the details became a little bit clearer, it began to turn out that Omicron wasn’t as bad as first thought and we all started breathing a collective sigh of relief. The general consensus now is that it is more transmissible and potentially vaccine resistant, but so far it only causes mild symptoms.
Sick and tired of the past two years of lockdowns and restrictions, we chose to ignore the bad and focused on the good. Mild symptoms FTW! As soon as we saw that in the news, many of us started forgetting the hiccup that is Omicron and started getting back to the important job of planning the Christmas celebrations and gatherings that would make up for all the lost time.
I don’t blame us, but if we haven’t learned the lesson that COVID-19 is not to be trifled with yet, this Christmas season is starting to look like it is going to be another painful test that we are going to fail. Just as our hospitals and health workers are getting a reprieve, this “mild” but highly infectious strain could take advantage of our Christmas spirit to power another massive wave of infections that could push our healthcare system that was never really improved despite the pandemic to another breaking point.
I know it’s a big ask, especially for those who have been salivating over the thought of actually celebrating the holidays, but it looks like we still have to up our defenses and precautions while toning down the planned celebrations for at least another Christmas. Let’s control our guest lists, keep it simple, outdoors, and short. All the more for those who still have unvaccinated family members and loved ones.
We may not be able to gather and party as much as we initially thought we could, but we can still give presents. Here are a few gift ideas for this pandemic Christmas season.
CO2 monitor – For those who are really raring to party, especially indoors, a CO2 monitor is a great gift. Available at less than P1k in online shopping sites, this handy device gives a constant update on the quality of the air in a room, which also gives the user an idea when to open a door or window to let stale (and potentially infectious) air out and allow fresh air in. If that is not possible, then high CO2 levels means it is time to move outdoors, change venues, or go home. CO2 monitors are useful because humans generally inhale oxygen and exhale CO2. When CO2 levels are up, it means the air in the room is mostly exhaled air, which becomes rich with CO2 and is most probably laced with coronavirus if there are infected people in the room. Omicron’s increased infectiousness makes being constantly aware of CO2 levels a potential lifesaver.
Face masks – Since we will still be using these for a while, these are practical gift options that everyone can appreciate. Throw in a touch of color to make it fun.
Headset/mic – work and school from home could be nearing their end but then again, we can never be sure. The headset and microphone has become an important part of our lives over the past two years and good quality ones are always welcome, especially as we navigate our new normal.
Air purifier with HEPA filters – This is great for those who live and work in air-conditioned areas. If you cannot increase ventilation, then let it come to you via air filters. HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are capable of capturing viruses so having one can serve as another layer of defense in homes and workplaces. Even though my home is mostly naturally ventilated, I wouldn’t mind having one because of allergic rhinitis.
Anti fog solutions that work – as an aging man who has recently been forced by biology to use eyeglasses, the combination of face masks and fogged up lenses are the worst. The face shield that makes it even worse may be gone, but is still a problem and if there is a solution to this annoying fact of life, I’d love it as a present. I’m sure everyone who uses eyeglasses would too.
Let’s celebrate the holidays as safely as we can so by this time next year, our Christmas lists can be a little bit less pandemic-themed.*