Last week, leaders from hospitals across Michigan, including Ed Ness, president and CEO of Munson Healthcare, held a press conference to appeal to Michiganders to refocus their efforts on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Hospital cases are doubling every two weeks, and at that rate, projections show we will surpass the spring hospitalization peak by the end of the month.

As we enter the holiday season, the season of gratitude and celebration of our families and friends, it’s not the message that any of us wanted to hear.

Our holiday celebrations will look different this year. Thanksgiving dinner will be and should be smaller. Amongst the turkey and mashed potatoes, dining room tables will have tablets and phones propped up against cherished serving dishes.

This year, it will depend on each of us to make sacrifices to protect not only our family and friends’ health and safety, but also our larger community, by helping slow the spread.

There are other traditions that we’ll place on hold. We won’t see the scramble of Black Friday shoppers heading out in the dark the morning after Thanksgiving to get a deal on the latest gaming console or toy of the year.

What isn’t on hold this year is the tradition of shopping local for the holiday season. The larger events typically held at the Grand Traverse Commons or Downtown Traverse City and area holiday arts and crafts fairs will look different this year. We can still join in on the season’s festive nature by shopping local for loved ones’ gifts and doing our part to support our friends and neighbors. We can’t isolate the spirit of the annual Shop Small Saturday to just one day.

This holiday season, more than ever, local businesses are depending on us. They rely on our patronage and want to welcome us into their businesses all winter long. They want to provide us with the goods and services we need so they can provide for their families and keep our friends and neighbors employed.

Instead of hunting the internet for the best deals, don your favorite holiday-themed mask and stop into your favorite local store and select a beautiful gift off their shelves. Peruse our local merchants’ online offerings and schedule curbside pickup or shipment to your loved ones far away.

Our friends and neighbors who own and work at these local businesses need us to keep walking through their doors, virtually or in-person, not just during the holiday season but throughout the upcoming winter. And to keep their doors open, they’re asking us for some additional help.

Wear a mask.

Avoid social gatherings.

Maintain social distancing.

Wash your hands well and often.

When making your wish list this year, make a special note for Santa to shop local for the socks you want to keep your toes warm or the Dutch oven for a long winter’s worth of soups and stews.

Many local merchants offer virtual appointments, private shopping times, special hours for Seniors and the vulnerable, and other special accommodations. Utilize their offer of maintaining your wish list or helping you find the perfect gift for a friend or family member.

Perhaps the best gift we can give to ourselves and each other is to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our businesses open and our friends and neighbors employed.

Brenda McLellan is the director of investor engagement at Traverse Connect.

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