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TIM BURKE: Governor, do we have to cancel Christmas this year?

With just a few weeks until Christmas arrives, the idea of gathering the family to celebrate holds a lot more anxiety than it ever did before.

As many families are making plans for December celebrations, state health officials hope Nevadans will be practicing stringent social distancing and staying home as much as possible.

During the holiday season, a significant concern is coronavirus spread related to dinner parties, with households moving into tight quarters with friends or family that don’t live in their home. Governor Sisolak’s latest order prohibiting private gatherings of more than 10 people is set to expire on Dec. 13.

The governor says the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be evaluated during the statewide “pause.” At the end of the three-week pause, several scenarios could play out: Governor Sisolak could lift the current restrictions, he could extend the current restrictions, or he could mandate tighter restrictions.

This year, business owners have canceled company Christmas parties as they grapple with the 50-person limit and four people per table restrictions. Business owners must determine whether or not to bring employees and their families together outside of their work hours, possibly increasing their risk of exposure to the virus. Organizations that traditionally host large Christmas parties have canceled those events this year. Many of those events are tied to charitable fundraising efforts, and now those charities must find another way to raise funds.

Locally, several events have been canceled or forced to change how they operate this year. The annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony went virtual on Valley Electric Association’s Facebook page. The Tribe Motorcycle Club’s annual Toy Drive is on, but this year the members will not deliver toys on Harleys. Instead, they will be handing out gifts at their clubhouse following state health guidelines. The Salvation Army’s bell ringers are out in front of community stores, albeit masked-up, and their Angel Tree program is moving forward. The Salvation Army has various Christmas trees placed at businesses all around the town decorated with Angel Tree tags with children’s names, ages, and genders, and a present suggestion. If the 50-person limit remains through Christmas, churches will have to find a way to hold services and still be in compliance. That is also true for all the businesses and organizations that feed our community members during the holidays.

Shopping this holiday season will be different also. Many retailers have opted out of Black Friday only sales, offering deals over a more extended time and online. Retailers hope that by spreading out sales and offering them online first, stores will avoid overcrowding. Online sales are expected to exceed in-person shopping this year, straining the already overtaxed delivery systems. Shoppers are encouraged to buy online early as shipping times could be longer for some items.

It is also a time to adapt and start new traditions! This year, many homeowners are getting into the holiday spirit by decorating their homes, inside and out.

Several local homeowners add lights and displays to the outside of their homes daily, seemingly to rival the Griswold home in the holiday movie “Christmas Vacation.” It’s a great time to get into your car with your family and drive around at night to see some of these great holiday displays and stay socially distant. Hmmm, do you have to wear a face mask while in your car with other family members? I don’t remember reading that restriction in the latest mandate. It would make it hard to drink hot chocolate as you visit our neighborhood holiday displays. I hope that isn’t next on the governor’s list!

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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