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WHO Official: It Is the 'Brutal Reality' in the US To Say 'Don't Hug' During the Holiday Season

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The holidays will look different this year as the world combats the coronavirus pandemic, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is weighing in with some advice for the holiday season.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO health emergency executive director, said during a news conference on Monday, “The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread,” according to the Associated Press.

Ryan added, “It’s quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system (and) amazing technological capacities.”

He was asked if hugs are considered “close contact,” to which WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove noted that gathering such as sharing meals or when people are spending time indoors together more transmission occurs.

Ryan then said, “It’s a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, ‘Don’t hug each other.’ It’s terrible.”

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“That is the brutal reality in places like the United States right now,” he added.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised people to socially distance and wear a face mask in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Though the pandemic has caused many to be isolated and distant from loved ones, the CDC is encouraging people around the holidays to “consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The CDC advises those who are hosting a gathering to remind their guests to stay home if they are sick, gather outside when possible, arrange tables and chairs for social distancing, wear a mask, wash one’s hands, encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks, among other recommendations. In minimizing gestures, the CDC recommends “don’t shake hands, do elbow bumps, or give hugs. Instead wave and verbally greet them.”

The U.S. is seeing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, with 201,778 new cases on average per day over the past week. This is a 17% increase from the two weeks prior, according to The New York Times.

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