As the holiday of love and affection nears, a word of advice from a medical expert: Spend Valentine's Day only with your loved ones and close family members.
As the US approaches a year's worth of shutdowns, closures, illnesses and sadness, Dr. Beth Thielen, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School, advises we carefully approach Valentine's Day, even if COVID-19 fatigue is setting in.
She is concerned that simple Valentine's Day traditions such as exchanging candies could spread the coronavirus.
“As much as possible, figuring out ways so there’s not a lot of hands handling any given kind of food or treat you’re going to be eating,” Thielen said.
She's doing research on respiratory viruses and how they affect us.
“It's not just the handing the candy directly, it's that you have to get in close proximity to have that exchange, even if it's short term,” Thielen said. “It’s maybe just handing off an item as we think about all the kids (doing) in a classroom. Doing that… creates lots of potential contacts where we could see transmission.”
Being within 6 feet means there are more chances of sharing air, which is how the coronavirus spreads. If you're hoping for a special night out, maybe get creative and find out how to make it special at home.
“What I would really like to drive home is this is not the time to (dine inside a restaurant), still keeping in mind the safer home option, making a meal at home, getting takeout and supporting a local business,” Thielen said. “Those are much more safe options as compared to going to an in-person bar or restaurant where you’re maybe dining indoors.”
While there's hope on the horizon with a vaccine and lower case counts in some regions, we, as a country, need to get our COVID-19 numbers down, Thielen says.
“It's really important now as we’re seeing these different variant viruses that seem like they may be more transmissible coming up, all the more reason why we need to really double down and buy ourselves time to roll out vaccines to really drive down the case counts before we start getting back to normal activities,” Thielen said.
Although wariness over the virus has set in for many, Thielen says focus on the positive moments and make Valentine's Day unique, special, and COVID-19 friendly.
“Valentine's Day is a time of love and being with people you care about and I would encourage people, for all of our mental health, to take that as an opportunity to take a pause and spend some time with whoever it is in your life that brings you joy,” Thielen said.