Put These COVID Safety Steps On Your Holiday To-Do List

Nov. 18, 2021
Practical tips for gathering with family, friends as cases rise

This holiday season, the best thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones and your community is to stay healthy and safe.

COVID cases are very high right now throughout western New York with hundreds of new cases every day. And health leaders are bracing for more cases as holiday celebrations continue. Think of COVID safety as another important item on your holiday to-do list.

I know COVID is still out there, but I want to see people over the holidays! How do we stay safe and healthy?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Get vaccinated if you aren’t already and encourage others to do the same.
  • Get a booster if it’s time: if it’s been six months since your second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or two months since you received a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination, you can get a booster.
  • Scale back the size of in-person gatherings. Fewer people at your table reduces the chance of spreading the virus.
  • Get a COVID test before your gathering. You can opt for a lab-based test (highly accurate) or a home test (rapid results.)  You can get home tests at local pharmacies and online.
  • Stay home if you are ill or have symptoms of COVID, flu, or other respiratory symptoms.

Should I wear a mask indoors?

Yes.  When you’re gathered with extended family or friends, or in crowds – like shopping malls, grocery stores or kids’ activities – you should wear a mask, even if you’re vaccinated.

The mask plus distancing are powerful ways to protect yourself and reduce the risk of bringing an illness home to your family.

Of course, you can’t eat or drink with a mask on, so remember to put it back on when you finish your meal.

We all make choices about the level of risk we are willing to take with our own and others’ health. In fact, assessing your particular risk, and making your health decisions accordingly, is a skill that you use in everyday life all the time, and it makes sense to start applying it to COVID, as this New York Times article explains.

While adults may be fully vaccinated, some kids won’t be fully vaccinated in time for Thanksgiving. And the youngest aren’t old enough for the shot. What can we do?

The best way to protect younger children is to have everyone around them vaccinated. Most children have mild symptoms, but they can still be at risk of complications and disruption to school. Their mild disease can also be mistaken for another common respiratory illness, leading to further spread in the community.

Kids may spread COVID to a family member who is most vulnerable – older adults and those who are pregnant or immunocompromised. Again, testing everyone for COVID before the event is a sound precaution.

If COVID numbers are so high, why should we get vaccinated?

Vaccination is working to protect us from severe illness and hospitalizations: vaccination is 88 percent effective preventing hospitalization in our region. Consider this comparison: 70 percent of adults in the Finger Lakes region have had at least one dose of vaccine, but unvaccinated people make up 80 percent of the COVID patients hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

These patients are younger adults, in their 50s – and they make up 90 percent of patients on a ventilator. You are 10 times more likely to contract COVID and require hospitalization if you have not been vaccinated.

We have to “double down” again

We are all sick of the pandemic– but dealing with it is better than being sick from it. And we know how to stop the spread, through vaccination, masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene.

Remember that what you do over the next several days can make your holiday season bright – or a bust, if you or someone you love gets COVID.