By Dr. Mel Meyer, Emergency Medicine, SageWest Board Chair
The holidays are here. It’s a season we look forward to all year – the chance to reunite with family, celebrate with friends and enjoy time off with loved ones.
And this holiday season is looking to be a brighter one than last year. In terms of the pandemic, we are in a much better place this year than we were in 2020. Thanks in large part to COVID-19 vaccines, many of us are feeling safer and more confident and comfortable with gathering again this year and enjoying some of the time-honored traditions we missed last year.
Still, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is still very much here, and we should act accordingly. There are a few important things we should all keep in mind to ensure that we are celebrating the holidays as safely as possible to protect ourselves and those with whom we are celebrating.
The first and most important thing you can do to ensure you are being safe is to be vaccinated against COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing illness, hospitalization and death from this virus, and getting vaccinated protects us and those around us. Individuals 5 years of age and older are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
If you have already been fully vaccinated and are eligible for a booster shot, I recommend that you get one. Just as its name implies, a booster “boosts” your levels of protection and can help you feel more confident about gathering with others safely this season. All individuals 18 and older who are fully vaccinated are eligible for boosters at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or at least two months after their single Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose.
In addition to being fully vaccinated, other steps you can take to increase your safety, lower your risk and protect yourself and others this season include:
- Wearing masks in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission
- Gathering outdoors if weather permits
- Avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces
- Staying home if you are sick or experiencing any symptoms
- Getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19
It’s certainly been a challenging two years, but we still have much to be thankful for this holiday season. I know I am grateful that COVID-19 vaccines are allowing us to take some steps back to more normal holiday traditions. I hope you’ll join me in doing everything you can to protect yourself and others and have a safe and healthy holiday season.
For more holiday safety recommendations, including travel recommendations, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/celebration.html.