City’s Holiday Covid guidelines miss the mark on shopping advice

by John Derr
Posted 11/19/20

Last Thursday, the City of Philadelphia issued its guidance on celebrating the holidays safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bullet-pointed advice advocated limiting holiday dinner guest …

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City’s Holiday Covid guidelines miss the mark on shopping advice

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Last Thursday, the City of Philadelphia issued its guidance on celebrating the holidays safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bullet-pointed advice advocated limiting holiday dinner guest lists to household members only, avoiding large crowds, and delivering meals and gifts to friends and family in a touchless manner such as leaving items on porches and doorsteps.  (Sounds like a holiday-themed ding-dong dash.)  The guidance went on to advise celebrating the holidays with friends and family via videoconferencing rather in person and participating in car parades.   

It is easy to understand why the city would make these recommendations.  Indoor gatherings where people need to remove their masks to eat and converse, and may not have room to social distance over several hours together could create a situation where infections spike in the days and weeks after the holiday. 

But I have not yet mentioned the final bullet point in the city’s guidance, which was “Do you holiday shopping online.”

That’s where the city of Philadelphia loses me.  Though some of our small businesses have robust websites and are in a position to sell products online and fulfill them in a timely manner, many are not.  Not only that, but advising people to do their holiday shopping online totally ignores the time and energy and investment most businesses have made to make their stores CDC compliant and to ensure a safe and pleasant shopping experience for all.

Small businesses are fighting for their survival and from what I have seen, they have taken every precaution that the CDC and the city have called for and advised.  Businesses are requiring all customers to wear masks.  They are limiting the number of people allowed in their stores at any given time so that social distancing guidelines can be observed.  They are disinfecting common areas regularly.  Most have hand-sanitizer available at visible and convenient locations, etc.  They are going out of their way to make it safe and convenient for you during scary times.

Chestnut Hill’s Stag and Doe Nights (December 2, 9, 16, and 23) have been transformed into a “staggered” Stag and Doe event.  The hours have been extended and shoppers are encouraged to visit throughout the day instead of just the evening, so it won’t be crowded.  This is an example of how our local businesses are adapting and adjusting in order to both create a safe environment for shoppers and employees and to make of go it during a time of year they depend on for their survival.

Earlier last week, health commissioner Thomas Farley said, “We really want to change the trajectory of this epidemic, but we don’t want to be so heavy-handed that we unnecessarily restrict things that may be important for peoples’ livelihood.”  Unless and until it can be demonstrated that the recent increase in COVID-19 infections can be traced to shopping in stores that haven't taken the measures our local stores have, it is irresponsible of the city to restrict the livelihood of our small business owners by advising its residents to “do their holiday shopping online.”

By all means, if you enter a shop that has not taken measures to ensure your safety, turn around and walk out. But, you will be hard-pressed to find a business like that. If you don’t like being out with other people right now, most local businesses will accommodate a personal shopping experience for you outside of their regular hours if you give them a call. 

This year more than any other holiday season that ever was, or likely will ever be, it is most important to avoid shopping online (Jeff Bezos will be fine), and support your local business owners instead.  You will be merrier if you do.  The recipient of the gift will be delighted with a unique and personal present.  The shop owners will have a happier holiday.  And the community will benefit as well.

Shop early.  Shop often.  Shop local.

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