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Celebrating safely: Parks & Recreation Director George Schaaf

December 15, 2020 – FYI

Every winter, CBJ Parks & Recreation Director George Schaaf visits his parents in North Carolina, where they spend the holidays together and celebrate his dad’s birthday — he’ll be 86 in January. George was hoping to make his annual trip again this year.

“A few months ago I made a plan to visit my parents as safely as possible: I would isolate for several days in Juneau before leaving. I’d take a COVID test in Juneau 72 hours before departure, and a second COVID test five days after arriving in North Carolina. Even with the tests, I planned to quarantine for 7 days before seeing my parents and wouldn’t stay at their house. We agreed to wear masks any time we got together. My mom didn’t care — she was thrilled to see me for the first time in over a year,” George explained.

“As I watched the numbers across the country rise after Thanksgiving, I started having second thoughts. My parents have sacrificed so much to stay safe — what if I was the one who brought the virus to them, despite all of these precautions? With multiple vaccines on the horizon in the next few months, could I really justify traveling while more people than ever before are being hospitalized because of the virus?”

At the beginning of December, George called his parents to share his concerns, and they agreed it was best not to go forward with the trip: “My heart just sinks to know I won’t see them for the holidays. And I know it’s the right thing to do. We can wait a little while longer knowing it means we can spend more time together down the road.”

So what will George’s holiday celebrations look like next year?

“We’re doubling everything: Double the decorations, double the cookies, double the gifts, and double the love.”

Here are ideas for celebrating the holidays safely from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.