With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States topping 1,000,000 as of May 1, many states have extended their stay-at-home orders. But as the weather gets warmer, and with high-travel holidays like Mother's Day and Memorial Day quickly approaching, it may be tempting to go outside, travel, or visit friends and family. Should you visit your mom for Mother's Day 2020? Experts tells Elite Daily that it is still best to avoid non-essential travel to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, but you can still find creative ways to celebrate.
Mother's Day in the United States is coming up on May 10, but with the coronavirus pandemic, the holiday wil look a little different this year. Instead of brunches and picnics, video calls and flower deliveries may have to suffice. Dr. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Ph.D, a preparedness fellow at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells Elite Daily that traveling to visit loved ones could put both you and family members at risk — and potentially violate stay-at-home orders if your state or city has one.
"Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to visit your mom," Piltch-Loeb tells Elite Daily. "Even if there is no stay-at-home order in your area, you should proceed with caution with all social interactions because the virus has not just miraculously disappeared." If you really want to see your family and they live nearby, Piltch-Loeb suggests taking a socially distanced walk in a park together, or having a picnic where you all bring your own food and keep your distance.
Interstate trips pose greater concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "traveling to visit friends and family increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19," the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. People can contract and spread the virus without knowing it, which is why physical distancing measures are so important. Dr. John Swartzberg, MD, FACP, an infectious disease specialist at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, tells Elite Daily that taking longer trips to visit loved ones is especially risky right now, and it's nearly impossible to maintain social distancing when you're staying with someone.
"When you’re talking about traveling longer distances where you’d have to travel for a full day, then you’d have to spend the night somewhere like your loved one’s house — your mom’s house — then that becomes much more difficult," Swartzberg says. If you must travel, going in your own car will reduce your exposure to germs more than other forms of transit, but the trip still carries risks. "Every time you stop at a place and use the bathroom or you fill up with gas," he says, you have the possibility of encountering the virus.
Flying is even more risky, Swartzberg adds, because you have to go through not only the plane ride itself but also multiple airports. Ultimately, if you or someone in your family contracts the virus and is asymptomatic and you all get together for Mother's Day, you could spread the virus to one another without even realizing it. Whether you personally are at high risk from the virus, Swartzberg points out that you may unknowingly transmit the virus to loved ones who are immunocompromised or at risk of complications from the virus.
Even if you've been in quarantine for two or more weeks, you should still avoid traveling to see your family if possible. "If you have been social distancing and your family has also been social distancing, you could in theory see each other," Piltch-Loeb says. "However, this really only works if you have seen no one and they have seen no one and after you see each other you will then see no one. As soon as we start reconnecting with family and friends we are sharing our germs with not only the people we see, but the people they then see." This applies to every interaction, and not just social interactions — so if you've been to the grocery store, the drug store, or on any other errand, you may want to take that into account.
Spending Mother's Day away from your mom or any maternal figures in your life does not mean you can't celebrate at all. You can host a virtual brunch or party with your family, for example, and you can still send your mom flowers if you can find a local shop that is still open, given that flower shops are not considered essential businesses. You can also send her a package or a card, and if you're worried about the virus being transmitted via package deliveries, there are precautions your mom can take. According to Piltch-Loeb, consistent hand-washing can go a long way in protecting yourself.
"Out of an abundance of caution, it makes sense for your mom to wash her hands before opening the package, wash her hands again after opening, and then remove the item from the package (this way your mom is not spreading the virus to the item itself)," Piltch-Loeb says. "Even though the virus can survive for this time, it does not mean you will get sick from the virus if it is on a given surface." So even if you can't be with your mom this Mother's Day, there are plenty of creative ways you can still celebrate with your loved ones.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.
Dr. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Ph.D, preparedness fellow at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Dr. John Swartzberg, MD, FACP, clinical professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health's Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology