Commentary: Team Beebe has tips for a safe holiday season

By Dr. David Tam

As we enter this holiday season, it is difficult to consider the choices that we will all have to make to keep ourselves, our families, our neighbors and, at Beebe, our patients safe.

Dr. David Tam

Thanksgiving is a time to sit around the table with our family and remember all the reasons we are thankful. During the Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa season, many gather to share gifts and celebrate sacred religious days. Many also gather to ring in the new year every Dec. 31.

I have always loved Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, having just emigrated, it was a truly memorable American holiday. Five Chinese families wouldgather to watch USC football, play the board game Risk and enjoy a unique blend of traditional American and Asian dishes.

While I think of those memories fondly, this year, my family will be creating some new traditions. COVID-19 is still here with us, and the data shows that infection and hospitalization rates continue to rise across the country and here in Sussex County.

We must reinvent some of the traditions of our families and friends to keep each other safe. Just as all traditions look a little different from household to household, everyone will likely come up with their own new traditions this year.

Team Beebe is all about caring for our community, so we felt the best way to demonstrate that this year was to have our team come up with some ideas on how to celebrate the holidays — COVID-19-style.

Many suggested chatting on the phone, while eating dinner outside in the fresh air or inside in a larger space with the windows open.

Some team members had ideas that we just had to share with you in the hopes of making your 2020 holidays a bit brighter.

Create a letter chain

Linda Schultz, a systems analyst at Beebe, came up with a wonderful idea about creating a letter chain of the folks who would normally attend your holiday get-together.

Write your own page briefly that shares your sentiments for the holiday — something you would share if you were together. Don’t make it too long, as to encourage those down the line to keep it going.

Mail the letter, the instructions and the mailing list. The person who receives it will do the same, and when the letter makes its way back to you, the circle is complete.

‘I Spy’ at a lights display

Rebeca Heistand-Ringwood, BSN, RN, suggested making a new family tradition.

1. Research local holiday light displays that can be seen from a slow drive in the car.

2. Make an “I Spy” game from things on the display route. Have copies for each family unit.

3. Plan a family holiday date.

4. Schedule a time around dinnertime (dusk to dark).

5. Each family unit will need to be able to ride in their own vehicles (preferably decorated) and bring their own drinks.

6. Make to-go containers with a holiday meal or snacks for each family member.

7. Include a family supply of napkins and utensils in a plastic bag.

8. Have families meet at one location.

9. Pass out to-go containers to family cars and a copy of the “I Spy” game to each car.

10. When all have assembled, lead the pack and drive in a caravan to and through the light display/neighborhood. This is a “No Cell Zone,” and all electronics and other distractions need to be put away during the family drive.

11. When completed, make your way back to the meeting place and gather the scavenger hunt papers from each family.

12. Announce the winner for having the most items checked off. (Of course, this is for bragging rights … unless you want to give out a family trophy.)

It requires a little bit of effort, but it’s well worth it, she says.

Let the kids cook!

Tara Simpson, our manager for organizational development, will just be having her family of four at home this year. She says that to change things up in 2020 and get the whole family involved, they will be planning the menu differently.

Besides the turkey, and maybe stuffing, each member will choose to make something. It can be anything. It doesn’t have to be the traditional things, but it’s their choice. They buy the ingredients. They make it all themselves.

“I’m excited to see what they each come up with,” she said.

Exchange those family recipes

Pam Smith, RN and clinical review auditor (who’s also wonderful at sewing masks), suggested a recipe exchange. Mail it, Zoom it, but make it special if everyone is apart this year.

Holiday bingo and craft boxes

Kelley Mills, human resources specialist, says to send out bingo cards in the mail. Then, create a Zoom meeting for a bingo game.

She also suggested this idea for kids: a craft or activity box. Provide a simple craft, such as decorating a cutout tree with stickers/pompoms or something to paint. You also could provide a baking box with simple ingredients for a hot cocoa.

One more thank-you

No matter how you celebrate this year, please just remember to keep the COVID-19 safety measures in mind: Wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. Thank you all and thank you to the many team members who shared their ideas. I wish we could fit them all!

At Beebe, we remain committed to this community. We are open and safe for all your health care needs. And as we prepare to celebrate this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we are certainly thankful for the privilege of caring for you.

To find the latest guidance from the state of Delaware and the Division of Public Health, visit coronavirus.delaware.gov and beebehealthcare.org/patients-visitors/column/covid-19-resource-center.

David A. Tam, MD, MBA, FACHE, is president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare.