Navigating the holidays during COVID

Another holiday season is nearly upon us, and for the second year in a row COVID-19 may change the way many of us celebrate.

Vaccines have certainly given us hope for a brighter future because they have shown to be very effective at preventing hospitalization and death. But the more transmissible Delta variant, the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccine hesitancy among some portions of the population means that getting together with friends and family in the old ways we’re used to may not be the safest option again this year.

Aside from these concerns, there’s also the question of what to do when your views about COVID-19 and vaccination don’t align with other family members. How do you protect the health of your family while still maintaining good relationships with those who see things differently? Do you risk it and visit with unvaccinated family members? Do you opt for a gathering with only vaccinated adults? How do you bow out of events that don’t feel safe to you?

First of all, it’s important to know how to protect your family members, including those who are fully vaccinated but may have weakened immune systems due to medical conditions or medications.

How to protect others

In addition to washing your hands often, monitoring your health daily for any symptoms of COVID-19, and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly, the CDC1 recommends the following:

  • Get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19 and can reduce the risk of spreading it.
  • Ensure that everyone in your family who is 12 years or older is fully vaccinated.
  • Even if there aren’t mask mandates in your area, wear a mask indoors in public especially if you are in an area of high transmission.
  • Wear a mask around people who may have weakened immune systems (they should also take all the standard precautions of someone who is unvaccinated even if they are fully vaccinated).
  • Choose outdoor activities if you are gathering with other people, and if you’re indoors choose a location that is well ventilated.
  • Avoid activities that make it hard to stay 6 feet away from others.
  • If you have a child younger than 2 or who cannot wear a mask, limit visits with people who are not vaccinated, whose immune systems may be compromised, or whose vaccination status is unknown; and keep a distance between your child and other people in public.

It’s important to remember that Delta is a much more transmissible variant which may also cause more severe illness than previous variants in unvaccinated people.2

Ultimately how you choose to spend the holidays is a decision only you can make. If you opt out of family gatherings this year to protect the health and safety of your loved ones, you may be able to soften the blow using these tactics:

  • Suggest a make-up holiday sometime next year when everyone feels safe and comfortable. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Diwali in July? Why not?
  • As long as local public health regulations allow, get together with select family members who are also fully vaccinated before or after the holidays for a smaller, safer gathering.
  • Let everyone know your plans well in advance so no one is caught off guard.
  • Don’t apologize for your decision, but to maintain peace in the family don’t lay the burden of guilt for your absence on anyone else. You might simply say, “Because we’re concerned about the uptick in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, we’re going to opt to stay home and keep everyone safe this year.”
  • If your family members are local, spend a day doing quick, drive-by visits to safely drop off gifts or goodies while staying outdoors. That way you can still see everyone and wish them a happy holiday.

When it comes right down to it, the happiest holiday is a safe and healthy one. For more advice on how to stay healthy at home, visit World Health Organization, and for additional information on how to make holiday celebrations safer during COVID-19, visit the CDC




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