Students hope to head home for the holidays, medical professionals recommend alternatives

Local News

NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — COVID-19 cases are ramping up right before the holidays, leaving some people torn between choosing family or safety.

Nearing the year-end, some people said they have not seen their families since the COVID-19 virus spiraled out of control.

“What’s making me go home is the fact that I haven’t seen my family all year or since [COVID-19] actually. So I’m pretty excited to see them,” Illinois State University student Imani McClay said.

McClay’s peer Nathan Fairbairn said this year has been different for his entire family in terms of gathering.

“We usually get together every single holiday and we just haven’t been able to do that and we don’t even know if we’ll be able to get together for Christmas now with everything going on,” Fairbairn said.

McClay said being away from her loved ones is taking a toll on her mental health.

“I get sad from time to time. I start to miss them and just kind of get in like a sad mood because I haven’t seen them all year,” McClay said. “It has impacted my school work and my motivation.”

Luke Raymond, the OSF HealthCare Director of Behavioral Health Services said a lot of people will feel increased isolation during the holiday season, which can magnify mental health issues and impact emotional well-being.

Raymond and his family want to set a good example for others.

“We’ve just decided for everyone’s safety including our own it’s probably just best to stay at home among ourselves,” Raymond said.

Raymond suggests taking precautions if you plan on traveling home.

“I want to make sure that I’m safe and my parents are safe so I really like to make sure that I get tested,” Fairbairn said.

If you have not been following virus guidelines or have a known exposure to COVID-19, medical professionals said sacrificing in-person family gatherings for virtual ones is the better option.

If you are hosting or attending holiday gatherings consider checking the COVID-19 infection rates in the area, limit the number of attendees, host outdoor gatherings rather than indoor gatherings and avoid gatherings in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.

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