CDC Says Rapid Tests, Vaccines, and Masks Can Help You Stay Safe During the Holidays This Year
- The CDC has new guidance for people gathering for the holidays.
- The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 this holiday season is to get fully vaccinated.
- Other tips include wearing a well-fitted mask in high-risk public settings, taking rapid tests the day of gatherings, and practicing caution around people who are immunocompromised.
The key to protecting yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 this holiday season is to get fully vaccinated against the disease, according to released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week.
The public health agency is also recommending people wear well-fitted masks in public, avoid crowded settings, and take a rapid test the day of any large gatherings.
The CDC is urging people who are sick to stay home and opt out of holiday get-togethers.
At this point in the pandemic, it’s difficult to reduce your risk to zero, but there are various precautions you can take to minimize the chances you’ll get sick with COVID-19.
“We aren’t through this, but these efforts will help us have a close to normal winter,” Dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, the director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, told Healthline.
Recent CDC data shows that unvaccinated adults are over six times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and more than 11 times as likely to die from COVID-19.
“The most important action you can take now to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
While there have been many documented cases of breakthrough infections, they tend to be mild and rarely lead to severe disease, Cutler added.
Vaccinated people are also thought to be less contagious, but they are capable of transmitting the virus to others.
“Nothing is 100 percent, but vaccines are the best defense,” Cioe-Peña said.
If you’re planning to travel for the holidays, the CDC recommends wearing a well-fitted mask in public settings or on public transportation.
The so certain masks provide stronger protection against infection than others.
“N95 masks provide greater protection than surgical masks, which are better than cloth face coverings,” Cutler said.
Health officials also recommend that people planning to gather with multiple households take a rapid test before meeting this year.
“Performed multiple times over a few days before an event can increase the sensitivity and specificity of the results, resulting in low false-negative results,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
It’s best to use rapid tests as close to your gathering as possible, ideally on the same day.
According to Cioe-Peña, rapid tests are useful in determining whether a person is infectious.
“They are cheap, quick, and effective to determine if it’s safe for the kids to be with grandma,” Cioe-Peña said.
Because evidence suggests that some immunocompromised people may not produce a strong immune response after being fully vaccinated and even after a booster dose, health officials encourage those who are immunosuppressed to take it during the holidays.
Keeping a distance from others, wearing well-fitted masks, and avoiding large indoor gatherings is recommended for those most at risk.
If you have an immunocompromised family member, you may want to consider wearing a mask if you plan to spend time indoors with them during the holidays, the CDC advised.
“We know that persons who are immunocompromised but fully vaccinated typically have lower antibody levels — 40 to 50 percent less — making them vulnerable to COVID-19,” Glatter said.
We are still in a pandemic, which means it’s difficult to reduce your risk to zero. But there are additional steps you can take to make your holidays as safe as possible.
Look up local transmission rates in the area. Risks, rules, and restrictions will vary depending on what state or even county you are visiting.
“Attending events in states or countries with fewer COVID cases will provide some level of relative safety,” Cutler said.
In general, outdoor activities and venues with good ventilation are safer than gatherings hosted in poorly ventilated indoor environments.
Keeping a distance from others also helps, as does frequent handwashing.
“If a large outdoor event requires vaccinations and masks while providing for distancing and hygiene, you can feel a greater degree of safety than if any of those precautions are not in place,” Cutler said.
Look at your personal risk factors, gauge your comfort levels, and don’t be afraid or feel guilty to opt-out of any gatherings you feel uncomfortable with.
The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 this holiday season is to get fully vaccinated, the CDC advised in this year’s holiday guidance.
Other tips include wearing a well-fitted mask in high-risk public settings, taking rapid tests the day of gatherings, and practicing caution around people who are immunocompromised.