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Prolific hugger and high-fiver adjusts to 'no hug' holiday season

Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 17:28:08-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Stop hugging each other. That’s the eye-raising message from the World Health Organization as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the globe.

“There’s no better way to convey trust. No better way to convey camaraderie and humanity," said Dave Sylvester.

Sylvester is what you may call a prolific hugger, traveling across the country and around the world, helping people in need, like buying dinner for essential workers and volunteering.

“I am the hug man. I am the human high-five. I am all of that stuff,” he said.

He’s on his way to Las Vegas where he held a personal record of more than 1,300 hugs back in 2017. But the pandemic has changed his routine due to social distancing.

“I have gone from an average of 47 hugs and high fives a day to 9 hugs and high fives…since March,” he said.

This comes as the WHO Monday asked people not to hug to prevent spreading COVID-19, especially in places like the U.S. where cases are spiking.

“It’s a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, don’t hug each other. It’s terrible, but that is the brutal reality in places like the United States right now,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the health emergencies program with the WHO.

Psychologists say hugs can be great for mental health as it releases hormones that help with empathy and trust. While it’s not as good as hugging a real person or your pets, they say you might try hugging your pillow, or even a stuffed animal.

“Don’t discount one of the secondary methods until you’ve tried it,” Jessica Shearin, a local psychologist, said.

Sylvester says it’s unfortunate to not hug as much but says that’s not stopping him from meeting others.

“We understood the severity of everything that’s going on and we just shared a smile. We just shared a heartfelt thank you,” he said.

A thank you that can speak volumes to so many in this difficult year.

Sylvester says he plans on arriving in Las Vegas Wednesday. If you want to reach out to him about how he can help in our valley we have a link to his Instagram here.

This story originally reported by Jeremy Chen on KTNV.com.