COVID case surge changes many Christmas plans, but won't dampen holiday spirits

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In Holy Name Cathedral a festive chant was sung by parishioners, all from behind a mask.

"Thankfully, here at Holy Name Cathedral, everyone's very good about safety practices," said Jeff Lipschultz, parishioner. "I would venture that probably the vast majority of us here are vaccinated. We wear our masks."

That is just one of the many precautions taken at many churches as COVID cases spike and the omicron variant spreads.

"Now with just the mask, people can come back together knowing that we are still a family," said Father Andy Matijevic, associate pastor for Holy Name Cathedral.

Much progress has come within the year, with the added protection of vaccines, which means the only thing required here is for attendees to mask up. The parish is at full capacity and social distancing is only encouraged.

"It's a nuisance, at times, to wear the mask inside, but it's an act of charity showing other people that we are all united in one family," Fr. Matijevic said.

Thursday, Illinois public health officials reported the highest number of COVID cases statewide in a single day since the pandemic began last year, with more than 18,000 people infected. That spike has made changes not just in the pews but at the dinner table, too.

"We want to be safe. I want to be safe. I want my parents to be safe," said Jacy Obinugwu, who flew in from Toronto.

"The difference is that we're not staying long. We're not spending a long time because my parents are a little older," said Tara Nwakudu, who lives in Chicago.

The Cunningham family flew in to Chicago from Austin, Texas, have seen their Christmas plans changed but not ruined.

"We, unfortunately, got a message from the Goodman Theatre that the production of A Christmas Carol had to be canceled tonight because of COVID in the company," said Jeffrey Cunningham.

"Chicago is a beautiful city, and I can't imagine spending Christmas anywhere else. So, COVID or not, we're going to have a very merry Christmas," said Angelique Cunningham.

"The light is at the end of the tunnel, because so many people have gotten the vaccine, people continuing to wear masks and social distancing, and we're all in this together," Matijevic said.
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