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SBC Public Health Department: Just say 'No' to holiday family gatherings

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Posted at 4:23 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 16:27:11-05

The Santa Barbara County Health Department attributes recent record-breaking COVID-19 case counts to Thanksgiving gatherings. With Christmas fast approaching, the department fears those numbers will skyrocket if people don’t say “no” to more holiday get-togethers.

“Personal choices do have a ripple effect. It’s life-threatening. It is life and death,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director.

Do-Reynoso says health officials expected the spike of cases shortly after Thanksgiving, and if people don’t say “no” to gathering with family and friends during the upcoming holidays, things could look even more bleak.

“Your choice may contribute to this being someone’s last holiday season that they’ll be celebrating,” said Do-Reynoso.

“We simply must do this. It’s not a risk that’s worth taking,” said Suzanne Grimmesey with the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness.

Grimmesey says to not be selfish this Christmas and say “no” to family gatherings.

“We must stay at home, as hard as it may be,” said Grimmesey. “I hear so many people saying ‘families first’ and I couldn’t agree more. Those are my values, too, but in this case, it’s different. Saying ‘families first’ is making those right decisions to keep everyone safe.”

“Think about the nurses, think about the doctors; think about all the people in the healthcare system that have been working 24/7 to keep our community safe,” said Do-Reynoso. “I would ask that community members think twice, just for one more holiday season, so that we can be in a better space.”

Staying home can bring a feeling of loneliness but doing little things for others can go a long way.

“Reaching out to other people to connect and to share feelings to get the support of others,” said Grimmesey. “Find meaningful activities and things you can do. It may be dropping off a handmade gift on the doorstep of a loved one that’s alone.”

Video chats and phone calls can put loved ones in a better frame of mind this holiday season.

“If you’re feeling alone and sad and lonely, like many people are, reach out for support; connect with friends, connect with family, connect with people in the church. If you’re still feeling that way, reach out and connect with a professional counselor,” said Grimmesey.

If you or a loved one is in need of professional help, Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness offers a 24-hour crisis response and service access line (888-868-1649), and the number for the San Luis Obispo Hotline for confidential mental health support, crisis, and suicide prevention is 800-783-0607.