Omicron, this year’s unwanted SoCal Christmas guest

The past year has been a lonely Christmas for Michi Chang and her family. The coronavirus has prevented them from celebrating the holidays with their family and friends.

But COVID-19 vaccines have brought a sense of normalcy to their lives this year. They celebrated Christmas with family and friends and drove from their home in Walnut to Wrightwood so her two daughters, ages 11 and 5, could tubing.

“We have been stuck at home for too long because of COVID,” she said. “We work from home, they studied from home, everything was done at home, so we wanted to go out and hang out with friends. “

But none of this meant that Chang wasn’t thinking about the highly contagious variant of Omicron that had spread across the state.

“I’m worried about it, but I still want to do normal things like hanging out with friends,” Chang said, adding that she and her family were vaccinated.

Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, families in Southern California are going through another holiday season with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all aspects of their lives, including last-minute cancellations or disruptions, because the Omicron variant leads to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

There were nearly 10,000 cases of COVID in Los Angeles County as of the last count on Friday. As of Saturday afternoon, 83 flights to Los Angeles International Airport were canceled, disrupting vacation trips for hundreds of families.

“We strained each other so hard for two years, I would just hate to blow it up now.”

Danielle Peters, Beverly Grove resident

Some families have sought to create new traditions or have clung to familiar traditions. Others have chosen to cancel gatherings entirely due to uncertainty or a positive COVID test result, while still others have closed their celebrations to a small group pending test results.

At Danielle Peters in Beverly Grove, the pies, macaroni and cheese and whole ham were ready to go for Christmas Day.

But just two days before, she and her husband were still struggling to get COVID tests to pass before they had more than a dozen guests. When they found it impossible to get tests, they decided on Friday to cancel the rally.

“We put so much strain on each other for two years, I would just hate to blow it up now,” said Peters. Instead of entertaining family and friends, they opened the presents in the morning and planned to head to Big Bear on Sunday to enjoy the Christmas feast, she said. A family reunion will have to wait.

“When the weather is better and things aren’t going up, we’ll have a kind of Christmas,” Peters said.

In Wrightwood, Franky Ortega and his family were getting ready to start their next activity of the day: building a snowman.

“My son wants to do two,” he said. “We have shovels, carrots, scarves and we are going use stones or twigs for the eyes.

He said planning last year’s activities around COVID-19 restrictions was difficult. He was grateful that this year was less restrictive, in part because people were getting vaccinated. He said he and all members of his family except his 7-year-old son had been vaccinated. He also tries to take precautions when doing outdoor activities with his family. Although COVID-19 is still a threat, he said he noticed people were more comfortable coming together.

“This year I’m seeing people pushing hard for vacation gatherings, even from people you didn’t expect,” he said.

In South Pasadena, Denise and her family – for privacy reasons she asked not to use her last name – had planned to celebrate her husband’s birthday on Friday with champagne and oysters and to have guests. at Christmas the next day to open the presents and enjoy a meal. But on Christmas Eve morning, her husband woke up sneezing and a COVID test confirmed he was positive, she said, derailing their plans. Denise and their two children tested negative.

Instead of a family celebration, her husband ate oysters at home alone while she brought their 1 year and 5 year old children out of the house. Denise said she and her husband were both vaccinated and received COVID booster shots last week and her symptoms were mild. Yet on Christmas morning, her husband stood in the corner of their apartment, wearing a mask and face shield while their children opened the presents.

“It was very weird,” Denise said. The experience was emotionally draining for the family, she said. She is waiting to be tested again on Monday.

In Culver City, Eileen Dorn met other instructors at Alliance Culver City for a tradition of training on Christmas Day. For nine years, Dorn, who is Jewish, said that she and other coaches met for a workout which is usually followed by an outing to a Chinese restaurant and a movie at the cinema. This year, Dorn is sticking with take-out with his family and a movie at home, but she said it’s nice to hang on to a familiar tradition.

“We all expected this year to be different, and it turns out it isn’t, so it’s good to hang on to a bit which is always normal and safe,” he said. she declared.

Times photographer Irfan Khan contributed to this report.

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