St. Joseph County Health Department gives New Year's Eve celebration recommendations

NOW: St. Joseph County Health Department gives New Year’s Eve celebration recommendations

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - As 2020 draws to a close, New Year's Eve celebrations are in the works, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still making large gatherings dangerous, what is the best way to ring in the new year? Sunday, the St. Joseph County Health Department gave its answer.

"First of all, I recognize there are a lot of people who want to kick the year 2020 to the curb, and I am among them," St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. "So, people are really looking forward to ringing in the new year."

Fox said he know the urge to heavily celebrate the end of 2020 is strong, but he said people must still be cautious in doing so.

"Several aspects of that are concerning," Fox aid. "Obviously, there's the large crowds, gathering with people outside of your household and gathering for extended periods of time. So, as with the other holidays, our best recommendation is to keep it to your household unit, whether that's actual roommates or family members or what have you."

After saying it was best for celebrations stay in your homes for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, Fox said the same might not be true for New Year's Eve.

"It would be safer to gather in a group less than ten," Fox said. "But if you're going to be in a larger group, restaurants have worked very closely with the Department of Health, trying to really refine their protocols to keep people at their table and in masks and to limit the crowd size. So, I do feel like by and large, the restaurants in St. Joseph County have been responsive to the concerns posed by the pandemic."

Fox said because of that close working relationship, it might be safer to take your New Year's Eve celebrations to a bar or a restaurant, especially if you're gathering in a larger group because many houses and apartments would not allow for larger groups to remain socially distant, but restaurants and bars are required to have social distancing, mask, and sanitation requirements that would ensure a safe environment for larger groups. Some local restaurants and bars like Doc Pierce's Restaurant in Mishawaka said they are already prepared for large New Year's Eve groups.

"We still have reservations for this New Year's Eve," Pat Tassell, the co-owner of Doc Pierce's Restaurant, said. "We do have a loft where we can seat one larger party if they're all one group. I think we haven't booked that yet. We have room for ten."

Tassell said she does not expect this coming New Year's Eve celebration to be like previous years.

"(Previous years have been) Busier than it's going to be this year,” Tassell said. "People are just afraid, and I don't blame them. You get so many mixed feelings on what to do."

Dr. Fox said even though there is a vaccine slowly getting distributed, and it may be safer to go to out on New Year's Eve, people must still be cautious.

"People may be a little over confident that 'Oh, the vaccine is here' or 'is on its way,' and people may overestimate the amount of protection that currently exists," Fox said.

Fox said he recommends celebrating with four of your closest friends who take the pandemic as seriously as you do. Anything else would increase the risk of exposure.

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