The winter holidays are here and friends and families will gather in ways we haven’t since before the pandemic! While we know so much more than a year ago about how COVID-19 spreads and have the addition of vaccination as an added layer of safety, we all must keep in mind that the pandemic continues and gathering should be done with the safety of our loved ones and ourselves in mind. Good hand hygiene, masking, social distancing, testing, and vaccination all play a part in ensuring the safest holiday season. In addition, we know that winter is the time that people tend to develop the flu and colds. All of our safety measures will protect ourselves and our loved ones from these illnesses.
- If you are hosting, make your expectations clear to your guests prior to the gathering.
- It is best to require full vaccination of all in attendance. If someone is not fully vaccinated, they should wear a mask at all times.
- Even those who are vaccinated may choose to wear a mask and should be supported in doing so.
- Unvaccinated attendees (including children) should mask and remain distanced from those who are at greatest risk for complications from COVID-19 such as the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, even if these guests are vaccinated.
- Consider testing attendees 48 hours before the gathering.
- If you are attending a gathering, speak with the host before the event about the safety layers in place for the event. If the safety layers do not make you feel comfortable, make a virtual appearance this year and wait until next year to attend in person.
- Minimize the number of people gathered around the potluck table at one time.
- If you plan to attend a holiday gathering with family and friends, especially the very young, elderly, or immunocompromised, limit other large-scale events two weeks prior to the gathering including spectator sports, concerts, and other large social gatherings.
- Mask up while in stores and other areas where people congregate, even if you are vaccinated.
- Consider obtaining proof of vaccination for all eligible family members in the days before the gathering. For a two-dose vaccine, one is not fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose so getting the first dose promptly is important. Any level of vaccination before the gathering is better than none.
- If you are more than six months from your previous COVID-19 vaccination, obtain your booster now.
- Sharing holiday festivities with family and friends is special, however, we must remember the pandemic remains present in our lives. It will not be here forever and doing all that we can to minimize spread is what will end the pandemic. As hard as it is to make this decision, if you or your child are not feeling well in the days before the gathering, stay home until you feel better. That is the best gift you can give your loved ones.
Barbara Klock, MD, is a pediatrician passionate about children, parents, and their journey together. As the Medical Officer for the District, Dr. Klock advises and collaborates with school nurses, school administrators, and regional health care professionals on policies, procedures, and protocols pertaining to the health and safety of students.