Black-Friday- Avoid-COVID Dr. Yared Vázquez's main recommendation is to avoid going to stores as much as possible and shop online on Black Friday.
Graphic via Desirée Tapia for The Americano

If you plan to risk shopping in person on Black Friday, follow this doctor’s advice to avoid COVID-19 exposure. A much safer option: buy from small shops online.

Every Black Friday, a new television, video game, or the latest household gadget promises to make our lives easier, but this year going to stores and waiting in long lines for those items poses a great risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Puerto Rican Dr. Yared Vázquez said the current high levels of contagion are the result of security measures being relaxed in August. Along with Dr. Nelson Medina, Vázquez is part of a team known as the Rice and Beans Doctors, whose Facebook page gives medical advice to the general community, especially Puerto Ricans living in Florida.

Vázquez said that around August, the COVID curve flattened somewhat because of the safety measures that were in place during the summer. 

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“Afterward, companies like Disney and Universal, as well as restaurant chains, opened to greater capacity,” Vázquez told The Americano. “People were frustrated and depressed, anxiety levels were enormous. Many said ‘this is over, I am going to resume my normal life.’ For my colleagues and myself, seeing the lines at Disney World was frustrating.”

Vázquez explained the current increase in COVID cases also stems from the elections, when people stood in long lines to vote or participated in political rallies.

The seasonal drop in temperatures and flu season are also underway. “Our projections predict several hospitals will be almost at capacity in January,” said Vázquez, an internal medicine doctor. “All this simply because restrictions have not been observed.” 

His main recommendation is to avoid going to stores as much as possible and shop online. The doctor said that most stores have extended their sales, so there is plenty of time to shop out of harm’s way. 

Vázquez added that if it is necessary to go to a store on Friday, the family should be well-organized. Whoever has the strongest immune system should spearhead shopping trips. 

That person must wear a mask, gloves, and not spend more than half an hour in a store. The doctor mentioned research that shows that within a group of 10 people, three might be infected with COVID and not show symptoms. For every 100 people in a store, 30 might be infected. Therefore waiting in long lines should be avoided, Vázquez advised.

“It’s like a sport—you have to be on the defensive and organized,” the doctor said. “If you go looking for the ‘chavao televisorcito’ everyone wants, and getting a discount makes you happy, then that’s the only thing you should buy in person. Everything else should be purchased online.”

The doctor recommends that people of all ages get their flu shot in order to lower the risk of contracting both diseases at the same time.

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Supporting small merchants online, which helps support the local economy and yields original gifts, is another way of avoiding crowds at brick-and-mortar locations.

Here are some gift and shopping ideas from Puerto Rican small businesses online:

Casa del artesano—Located in Kissimmee, Florida, this website carries traditional and contemporary Puerto Rican arts and crafts. From decorative plaques featuring facades of Old San Juan to a wooden coffee mill engraved with island motifs, you’ll find artisanal gift items for may on your gift list.

“Coquí”—Written by Puerto Rican actress Valery Ortiz (who also penned “Gabby Duran & the Unsittables”), this bilingual children’s book features a tiny tree frog who lives in a Puerto Rico rainforest. Coquí doesn’t “ribbit” like other frogs, so he goes on a journey to teach his friends the importance of being yourself. 

Púrpura—Artists Elvia Hernández and Olvan Vázquez create jewelry in original designs made of paper. Since 2014, the artists have made earrings, necklaces, and rings, along with many other accessories in their San Juan studio. The pieces are colorful and reference the iconography of Puerto Rican culture. 

HelloHiBelHair—Located in New England, this Puerto Rican hair enthusiast creates colorful oversized scrunchies, headbands, and bows, as well as other accessories. The maker of the accessories, Bianca, wants women to be able to sport up-to-the-minute hairstyles with ease.

Just Hanging—This Puerto Rican small business gives traditional macramé hanging planters a boho modern twist. Their 17 styles, available in a variety of colors, ship to Puerto Rico and the United States.

Libros787—For avid readers, this online bookstore carries the latest publications by popular Puerto Rican authors. Titles in stock include “Ellas: Historias de mujeres puertorriqueñas” and “Memorias de una despistá.” The classic Puerto Rican cookbook “Cocina criolla” is also available, as well as popular children’s titles like “Un coquí de Boriquén con los Reyes a Belén” and “La gran Victoria.”

Sugar Scrubs Co.—This Puerto Rican brand purveys body scrubs made with natural ingredients. Owner Beatriz has sensitive skin and is allergic to commercial products. After making the products for herself, she decided to create a product line. Her fall collection includes pumpkin spice latte shower foam and body scrub, a peach pie body duo, and lavender-eucalyptus and vodka after-shave lotions.

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