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Arizona’s ICUs are filling up as the state sees a record surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Christmas, like most other 2020 holidays, will have to look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked the public to forego holiday travel and gatherings this holiday season. 

Arizona is seeing even more cases than it did in the summer, with a record 8,139 positive samples collected on Dec. 14. And, as the virus spreads, hospitals continue to feel the strain: as of Dec. 20, only 8% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds were available in the state. 

But that doesn’t mean Arizonans can’t still get in the Christmas spirit and have some fun. 

Here are some ideas for making this holiday season a safe, but memorable, one: 

Christmas Lights

While people are stuck at home, many have put a lot of effort into sprucing up their homes for the holiday season. Families can drive around neighborhoods at night looking for some of the best displays. This Facebook group keeps track of fun decorations in Phoenix and the East Valley. 

Keep each household in a separate car to stay safe. If people from different households are riding together, wear masks and keep the windows down if possible. 

Local Events

While some local Christmas events have been canceled due to the pandemic, others are continuing on with safety restrictions in place. 

Multiple cities (including Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, and Scottsdale) and local businesses (including the Desert Botanical Garden, Schnepf Farms, the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess, and Vertuccio Farms) offer outdoor activities, like light displays, ice skating, train rides, and more. 

Plan to wear a mask. Check the event’s website before going, as some require pre-purchased tickets with spaced-out entry times. 

Phoenix Library Escape Room

The Phoenix Public Library is offering a perfect safe virtual substitute for fans of escape rooms: Escape from Burton Barr.

Players find themselves waking up from a nap in a now locked-down library, with only an hour to solve puzzles and get out before getting in trouble. The game is suitable for all ages. 

For younger children, the library offers virtual storytime and singalongs

Religious Services

Many churches and other houses of worship are offering virtual ceremonies as an alternative to in-person services. Check churches’ social media pages for live streams. 

Those planning to attend services in person should plan to wear a mask and sit at least six feet away from other households. 

Video Call 

Skipping the traditional family gathering this year? You can still connect with loved ones over the holidays. Friends and family can set up group video calls using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or any other platform. 

The calls don’t just have to be for talking. Use the camera to show each other holiday decorations, open gifts with each other, share recipes, sing Christmas carols, or play virtual games

ZooLights

For families who usually go to the Phoenix Zoo for its Zoolights display this time of year, there are still options for doing so safely. The zoo is allowing people to walk through, but masks are required and capacity is limited. There’s also the “cruise” option for households that would rather drive through to see the lights. 

If the holidays are feeling too busy to make time for ZooLights, good news—the display will run through Jan. 31.

CDC Guidelines

If you must travel, the CDC offers guidelines for reducing risk. 

Those include wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and frequently washing hands. 

People attending or hosting a gathering should keep limit the number of guests, congregate outside if possible, avoid sharing food and utensils, clean frequently touched surfaces, and avoid shouting or singing.