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ER doctor: ‘Be smart’ at holiday gatherings

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Another holiday season is upon us, with many people feeling more confident about gathering with family and friends during the pandemic.

Older man wearing medical face mask gives a holiday gift to younger man wearing no mask as younger woman with no mask watches. All are wearing Santa hats.

We’ve made progress against COVID-19, but how does that factor into this year’s holiday preparations?

First, a reality check. The number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations remains high in Wisconsin and nationally – particularly among the 47 million unvaccinated American adults.

“The best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in October, when it updated its holiday guidance.

Dr. Christopher Painter endorses that advice. He’s an emergency medicine physician with BayCare Clinic.

“Please be smart, be courteous to others and teach others – including children – to do the same,” he says.

“We can best do this with a layered approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays. That starts with excellent hand hygiene, avoiding contact with others when feeling ill, getting vaccinated and considering masking in enclosed environments.”

Just before Thanksgiving, the CDC said all adults age 18 and over are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots. The CDC urges older people and those with underlying medical conditions to get booster shots before the holidays. It also urges those not vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

More of the CDC’s updated holiday guidance:

  • Don’t travel until you’re fully vaccinated. (For details, check the CDC’s travel page.)
  • Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you’re sick or have COVID-19 symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have close contact with someone who does.

The CDC also says wear a mask:

  • If someone in your house or at your gathering has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or isn’t vaccinated.
  • If you’re not vaccinated, and you’re indoors in public.
  • If you’re vaccinated and you’re indoors in public in a community that has lots of COVID-19 cases.
  • When you’re using public transportation, whether you’re vaccinated or not.

“We have to take steps to protect ourselves, even when gathering with family and friends during the traditional holiday season,” Painter says.

“Enjoy holiday get-togethers by doing your part to stay safe and by keeping others, your friends and loved ones, safe.”

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Author: Jeff Ash