Gathering to celebrate the holidays is much safer this year than it was in 2020. That’s thanks to the widespread availability and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. But all signs indicate that COVID is still very much present in our communities, partly due to more highly transmissible variants of the virus and slow acceptance of vaccination among some groups. The best way to ensure holiday gatherings keep everyone safe is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – and if you’ve already been vaccinated, see if you’re eligible for a booster dose. Vaccines are available for all individuals age 5 and up. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about which vaccine is right for you. Doing your best to protect the health of your family and friends is now part of the planning process before hosting a holiday event. Before inviting people over to your home, here are some considerations to take.
Is there anyone at risk for severe illness from COVID?
Even with a vaccine, there are some groups that are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Think through who you’re planning to invite to your home and have a conversation with people. Find out if they have any health conditions that put them at higher risk. Ask if they are comfortable attending, or if there are precautions that need to be in place – like everyone wearing masks indoors – for the event to happen safely.
Is everyone vaccinated against COVID?
Fully vaccinated individuals can gather without wearing masks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If someone isn’t vaccinated, the CDC advises they should wear a mask when in close quarters indoors. Getting vaccinated can also help protect those that are more vulnerable, like young children under the age of five years that are not eligible for a COVID vaccine.
Is anyone traveling?
The holidays can be an exciting time as families often gather from across the country to keep traditions alive. But with the spread of COVID-19 still a concern, you may want to take additional precautions. For those traveling from different parts of the country, the CDC advises people should consider additional safety measures. Guests that are traveling might want to avoid crowded indoor spaces before the main event and wear a mask in public spaces – regardless of vaccination status.
Is anyone sick?
If someone is sick, it is best that they stay home and not attend. Clearly communicate with your guests that it’s important to you that they stay home if they’re sick, even with just a cough or a sniffle.
How can I reduce the spread of illnesses?
No one wants to spend the holidays sick, and COVID-19 isn’t the only illness to worry about. The flu is still very much present – as are other illnesses that can be easily spread in close quarters. For young children, RSV and hand, foot and mouth disease are constant concerns. Get your routine vaccinations – including this year’s flu shot – and encourage family and friends to do so as well. During the event, encourage your guests to wash their hands often, especially before eating or helping in the kitchen. Keep sanitizing spray or wipes handy to clean highly touched surfaces during the event, such as doorknobs and bathroom surfaces. Consider offering paper towels for people to dry their hands at the kitchen sink or bathroom sink instead of using a shared towel. Make sure you’re following good food safety measures when offering up snacks, hors d’oeuvres or a buffet. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and make sure to refrigerate leftovers within two hours of eating. More from MIBluesPerspectives.com:
- COVID Booster Shot: Frequently Asked Questions
- Answering Your Questions: The COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids Ages 5 -11
- Mix-and-Match COVID Booster Vaccines: Understanding the Science
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