The New Normal Winter Break

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Let’s take a breath and give ourselves a pat on the back for the resilience, strength, courage, and especially the emunah we demonstrated for the past ten months. When our world was turned upside down by COVID-19, regardless of age or role, we stretched ourselves to navigate the New Normal and beat this plague. We fortified ourselves and faced the challenges, turning adversity into opportunity.

With intercession (“the winter break”) arriving soon, I have some good news and bad news to share.

First, the bad news. There has been a surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly after millions of people traveled through airports for the Thanksgiving holidays. Also, as the weather gets colder and winter approaches, people will be interacting more frequently indoors, most probably in poorly ventilated places, which escalates the risk of transmission of the Coronavirus. Finally, the general public will most
likely not begin to get vaccinated until April 2021.

Now for the good news. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Four pharmaceutical/biotech companies are on the brink of releasing
the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. By the time you read this
article, Pfizer and Moderna will have provided enough of the vaccine
to immunize 20 million people, health care workers, and nursing
home residents in the U.S. In the history of medicine, the quickest
vaccine to have ever been developed took four years. This one was
ready in eight months.
The other piece of good news is that there are lots of winter
pandemic-friendly intercession activities, and staycations have always
been a popular option for winter break.
Before we move on to intercession activities, let’s recap some key
events and lessons learned.
In mid-March, schools closed on short notice and educators moved
quickly to launch remote learning. Parents managed their own work
from home and supervised their children’s virtual learning. The warm
weather brought with it some relief, certain summer camps opened,

and parents organized safe and socially distant happenings such as
road trips or outdoor activities for the family. School administrators
spent hours during the summer developing safe reopening plans and
students returned to either full in-person learning or blended learning
in the fall.
The yeshiva winter school break is traditionally a time to hop on
a plane or cruise ship, if one’s finances and schedule permits, and
escape to a warm climate. Given the uptick in COVID-19 cases and
a shortened or even cancelled winter break, flying or cruising are no
longer viable or safe choices. Some yeshivot have even scheduled
scattered days off within the next months to discourage families from
booking air travel plans and having increased exposure to COVID-19.
Let’s give our children credit for the immense emunah, flexibility,
creativity, patience, and agility displayed since March. Many are
experiencing pandemic fatigue, but we need patience to hang in there
and keep our families and others safe. If we do that, next winter we
can travel across the country or even to Israel.
The Pandemic Pivot
A word often associated with managing our New Normal is PIVOT.
Pivot means to turn or balance on a central point. While this word was
used frequently in surviving and pivoting from a business crisis, job
loss, or death of a loved one, it can also depict a commitment to shift
to a new direction. Some call it the pandemic pivot.
How can we pivot to arrive at safe, fun and socially distant winter
break ideas?
Road trips are a popular and safer pivot from getaways requiring air
travel. Staying in your own state may be your safest bet to avoid quarantine
rules when returning from certain states. Finding a destination that is not
going to be crowded, such as a national park, may be a safe, peaceful, and
enjoyable option. Most children adore recreational vehicles and hotels.
Please review cleaning, social distancing, and cancellation policies before
you book a hotel, Airbnb, or any attraction.