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Experts consider Christmas shopping a COVID-19 superspreader event

Posted at 5:28 PM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 20:31:29-05

If you did any Christmas shopping in the past week or so, you may have put yourself in the middle of a COVID-19 superspreader event.

Experts say people not following health rules to the letter makes for big gaps in safety, which nobody wants to think about this time of year.

"Christmas shopping itself has been a superspreader event if you take in summary all the people that are out because of that Christmas shopping and their potential exposures. Then you've increased the risk of the community for an increased number of cases," explained McLennan County Health Authority Dr. Farley Verner.

Many experts predict in a couple of weeks, that superspreader will hit home. But it doesn't mean you have to cancel Christmas.

”There's not going to be any perfect way to avoid the virus, but it doesn't mean that you can't take any measure, if possible,” said Tresa McNeal, physician hospitalist with Baylor, Scott & White.

It starts with the basics we all know by now. Even businesses play a part.

”I think the stores need to be open with reason. You know, wear your mask, use your hand sanitizer. They're wiping baggies down as you go in,” said shopper Shannon Stone from Hill County.

That's why it's hard to find a store cleaner than Target. What shoppers might forget to do, Target associates make their business.

The constant wiping and the plexiglass partitions help. Associates offer face coverings to people without them, but shoppers have to do their part too.

So, if you did participate in a potential superspreader event like Christmas shopping, how do you prevent spreading the coronavirus yourself?

First avoid crowds, says the McLennan County Health Authority.

"If you're in a store that has so many people that you can't keep your distance, then you can go to a different one," said Dr. Verner.

Instead of a big box store, go to a mom and pop with no crowds and personal service.

Most people's favorite defense? Hand gel.
”I will hand sanitizer at the cash register after I touched the little pin thing, and I do it on the way out. I do it before I get my truck, lock my door down, I lock the steering wheel down. You know, I'm just, I'm careful,” said Stone.

Keeping families close helps too.

”We got a big family. Everybody's been safe. We stay within our group, you know, don't go to a lot of public places, but necessities for Christmas, you know,” said Jane Younger of Waco.

Was it worth the exception for Christmas? We could know in a couple of weeks.

”That's why it's just important to protect yourself and others in all situations where you interact with people not in your own household,” explained Dr. Verner.

Because, he says, the more people you come in contact with, the more likely it is you've come in contact with COVID-19.