Have you already started thinking about putting up your Christmas tree or decorating your house for Hannukah? You’re not alone. With our last holiday season falling during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one will blame you for decking the halls early in hopes of making this year especially merry.
However, there are still several questions circulating about what activities are safe during the 2021 holiday season. Can we gather? Who can gather? Where should we gather? According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after the past 20 months we’ve been through, it’s actually imperative that we gather — albeit with care.
“It's critically important that we gather, that we be together with family and friends during these holidays,” Dr. Walensky says. “And we have the prevention strategies that we know work to be safe for those holidays.”
These prevention strategies include the guidelines the CDC has been touting for months — wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask when in indoor public places, and stay away from people who are sick. But the most important precaution of all is get vaccinated.
Vaccination is key to safe and happy holidays
In early November, all people age 5 and older became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, some adults can now receive a vaccine booster shot. This means everyone from kids to grandparents can enjoy protection from COVID infection over the holidays. And it is up to them to help keep the youngest — the babies, toddlers and small children of the family — safe until they too can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Get yourself vaccinated before you gather — it will absolutely be safer if you're vaccinated,” Dr. Walensky says. “Any activity that is outdoors is safer than it is if it's indoors. And if you are gathering multiple households, make sure as many people are vaccinated as possible so you can protect the people who are vulnerable, who might not yet be vaccinated.”
The CDC offers these additional tips to safely celebrate the holidays:
- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
- If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
- Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
- Delay holiday travel until you are fully vaccinated.
Additionally, vaccinated people who are immunocompromised or are celebrating with others with compromised immune systems should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask. And if you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households, consider additional precautions, such as avoiding crowded indoor spaces and taking a COVID-19 test before and after the festivities to further reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
By working together, the CDC says, we can enjoy safer holiday celebrations while protecting our own health and the health of our family and friends.