Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Local healthcare officials are calling on everyone to avoid in-person holiday gatherings of more than one household.

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said that coronavirus contact tracers have linked infection spread to holiday events like Christmas cookie decorating parties and wine dates among friends.


COVID-19 cases are still climbing in Monroe County, but immunizations might not be far off. Though the news is hopeful, Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said, the time to ease precautions is still a long way away.

“We want to encourage people to resist the temptation to resume normal too early,” Mendoza said Thursday. “I get it. I’m with you; I want normal, too, but we really run the risk of setting ourselves back by letting go of the reins too early.”


A new survey shows that while some New Yorkers are less excited about the upcoming holiday season due to the pandemic, a number of them still plan to find ways to celebrate.

The Siena College Poll shows that 59% of state residents are somewhat, or every excited about the upcoming holiday season. That’s down from 71% last year, but Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy said that a lot of New Yorkers still plan to spend a fair amount of money on presents.

Nearly half of those surveyed, about the same as last year, plan to spend under $500 on gifts this season.

Alex Turner

Family gatherings at Thanksgiving are a tradition, but with the coronavirus pandemic, they can also be risky.

Some local families are finding ways around that. Alex Turner’s family has a new ritual.

“We just set up a video call, set the computer up somewhere in the kitchen, and then we cook and we talk and we lift up the plate to the camera and say, 'Is this about how it’s supposed to look?' ” Turner said.

The holiday season is fast approaching, but gatherings could look different this year due to the coronavirus. Monroe County has released guidance for Halloween, and the CDC is ranking holiday gathering activities based on level of risk.

This hour, we talk with local medical professionals about what we know now regarding the virus and how it spreads, what the big questions might be when the holidays arrive, and how to start talking with family and friends about plans and expectations. Our guests:

  • Elizabeth Murray, D.O., assistant professor of pediatrics, and pediatrician at Golisano Children's Hospital
  • Brenda Tesini, M.D., assistant professor of infectious diseases, and member of the Center for Community Health & Prevention's Emerging Infections Program team at URMC
  • Jennifer Gutowski, RN, associate director of infection prevention at Rochester Regional Health

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Our panel takes an interfaith look at the holiday season, and the ways we communicate with each other.

Panelists representing Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths will present their own religious traditions during an upcoming event, but first they discuss those traditions on Connections. We explore how faiths differ and what they have in common. We also discuss the often-invoked "War on Christmas" and the like. Our guests:


Rather than risk a fight at the family dinner table, some people try to steer away from political conversations during the holidays. If you can’t stop that opinionated uncle from airing his latest grievance, though, you should have a game plan for dealing with disagreements. 

Gail Ferraioli is a mediator who works with couples, families and nonprofits. She said learning how to diffuse arguments is crucial. Ferraioli said one of the worst things you can do in an argument is dismiss another person’s opinions. Empathize instead, she said.

What are the best holiday films of all time? What are the worst? Why is Love Actually so polarizing?

We talk about holiday entertainment and what brings so many of us out to see the shows during Christmas week. Our guests:

  • Lester D. Friedman, professor in the media and society program, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Jack Garner, longtime Gannett film critic

Our modern secular Christmas traditions have a surprisingly close link to an ancient Roman holiday. Most of us have never heard of Saturnalia, but it turns out that for hundreds of years, the Romans’ favorite holiday was in December, celebrated with decorations, candles, gift giving, and big holiday parties. There was seasonal music. Some Roman writers complained that Saturnalia season was bleeding into November. It all sounds so familiar! Even Santa Claus has parallels to classic mythology. Here to give us insight on this are:

  • Amy Vail, St. John Fisher professor
  • David White, Baylor University professor

Christmas on the battlefield. 100 years ago next week, the Germans and the British (along with the French and Belgian soldiers) laid down their guns for two days to celebrate Christmas. It happened on a battlefield early in the first world war, with thousands of corpses on that field. They concluded the Christmas service by singing Silent Night together.  30 years later, during World War II, a group of Americans brought Christmas back to a small town in Luxembourg that had been occupied and destroyed by war. The children of that town hadn’t celebrated Christmas in four years. An American (who happens to be from Pittsford) played Santa for the town, and to this day, he remains a celebrity for that Luxembourg village. He’s now 93 years old, and joins us to tell his story. We then play a partial rebroadcast of Walter Cronkite and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing and reading Silent Night, Holy Night to mark the 1914 event. Christmas on the battlefield. 

Then, we get an update from Innovation Trail Editor Matthew Leonard about the Cuomo administration's decision to not allow hydrofracking in New York State.