As St. Patrick's Day arrives on Wednesday, March 17, it may be hard not to compare this year's holiday to last year's. This time around, vaccinations are underway and things are looking brighter. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends being cautious again this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here is what you should know about staying safe.
A Look Back at St. Patrick's Day, 2020
For many of us, St. Patrick's Day was the first holiday that was largely affected by COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11. Parts of the United States were under stay-at-home orders or other restrictions, such as school closures and banning of public gatherings, due to the threat of COVID-19.
Progress and Challenges of St. Patrick's Day, 2021
There is good news this year. For example, unlike last year, safe and effective vaccines have now been developed, according to studies such as those in the New England Journal of Medicine and described by the National Institutes of Health. Over 100 million doses have been given in the United States, and about 2 million more people per day are receiving vaccinations.
On the other hand, we are far from achieving so-called "herd immunity," or the point at which enough people are immune to COVID-19 that the virus will die out on its own. For that, experts estimate about 75% of Americans will need to be vaccinated; currently, only about 10% are. Instead, the CDC continues to encourage people to continue to follow safety protocols to avoid spreading COVID-19.
What Is "Safe?"
The CDC reminds people that the safest celebrations are those which are held virtually or are with people from your own household. Recent guidance states that fully vaccinated people can gather together indoors with low risk as long as nobody is present who is not fully vaccinated.
If you choose to gather with people from other households, and one or more people are not fully vaccinated, it is safest to stay outside and at least 6 feet away from other people. In addition wearing a mask - or two - can lower the risk of spread.
Ideas for Safe Celebrations
St. Patrick's Day parades and drinking in bars are out of the question this year in most locations, but you can still have fun without putting yourself at risk for getting sick. These are a few family-friendly ideas.
Make green food.Food coloring works great for many types of food, and you can make your own natural green coloring by boiling water and a bit of fresh spinach. Bagels and green cottage cheese, whole-grain pasta boiled in green water, eggs cooked with green water plus extra spinach, and pureed frozen bananas with green color are all appropriate for St. Patrick's Day.
Look for shamrocks or leprechauns. Text a few neighbors and have each participant color a shamrock or leprechaun and tape it in a window that is visible from the street. Then walk around the neighborhood and try to spot all of the shamrocks and leprechauns.
Bake and decorate healthier cookies. Oatmeal cookies, made with banana and peanut butter, can be colored green and decorated with non-fat cream cheese-based frosting.
Cook an Irish meal together. Get the family and friends together on video chat, such as Zoom, and cook a predetermined menu together. It could be something such as shepherd's pie (try turnips or cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes), corned beef, cabbage, and carrots.
Make St. Patrick's Day cards. Make them for friends and neighbors, and deliver them. If you go on foot, you can get some exercise in, too.
Watch an Irish movie. Bonus points if you dress in green and decorate your living room, too!
While there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to stay cautious to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths. For the St. Patrick's Day, consider having fun safely, and being confident that you are staying healthy and doing your part to keep your community safe!
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