aPandemic America’s third Thanksgiving may seem like the most ordinary holiday gathering in a while. AAA expects travel over the long weekend to reach 98% of pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 54.6 million people driving and traveling to see their loved ones. Indeed, 2022 is on track to be The third busiest Thanksgiving Since AAA began tracking these travel numbers in 2000.
At the beginning of the pandemic, celebrating Thanksgiving meant either virtual or very small in-person gatherings. Now that COVID-19 vaccines and medications are available, it’s easier to see more family members, “and that’s a beautiful thing,” says Dr. Juanita Mora, an allergist and immunologist at the Chicago Allergy Center and national spokesperson for the American Lung Association. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to keep everyone safe this year — especially since Thanksgiving is in the midst of an atmosphere New set of Omicron sub-variantsa Heavy flu seasonAnd the High rates of RSV infection among children and the elderly.
Maura tells TIME how she’s approaching this holiday season. “I try to follow exactly what I tell patients,” she explains. “Our precautions should revolve around the most vulnerable person who will be at our Thanksgiving table: that grandparent receiving chemotherapy, that parent with diabetes, that child with asthma, or that brand new baby.”
For Mora’s family, their precautions “center around my dad who’s 76. He’s healthy, but we want to make sure he stays healthy.” The first step is making sure everyone is aware of their footage. “I am a very active doctor with her family,” says Mora, which means she makes sure “everyone is vaccinated against the flu and has up-to-date boosters for COVID-19, including children.”
Maura’s sister and kids will be visiting from California, and they’ll get their photos taken before they travel. She is asking all of her family to wear a mask while traveling: “A mask on the plane, a mask at the airport, a mask at the train station, and a mask on the train too, because all of that will be key to keeping our family members safe.”
Donald Melton, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Maryland, is also hosting Family Traveling this year, and they’re taking a similar approach. “We use the N95 constantly when we are in public places with potential close contact and/or low indoor air quality,” he says. Moreover, “we will use HEPA and DIY filters Corse Rosenthal cans to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID and influenza,” he says, adding that “everyone, including the 8-month-old grandson, has been vaccinated and boostered multiple times when eligible.”
She said those who gather for Mora’s Thanksgiving will also do a “mini-quarantine” in the week leading up to Thanksgiving dinner; This means trying to limit the number of people they come into contact with. “So no big events. Try not to go to bars, not go to restaurants, and go grocery shopping when there aren’t a lot of people around,” Mora explains. “I’m a 7 in the morning grocery shopping girl.”
Then, the day before the gathering, everyone will take a rapid COVID-19 test, Mora said. The same is true for the Melton family: “We will require everyone to get tested on two consecutive days, including the morning of the gathering or before arrival and departure if they have a positive test or symptoms,” he says.
It’s also worth taking a few extra precautions once the holidays are over. Mora recommends wearing a mask for a week afterward if it’s a big family reunion or family celebration, “just to make sure” no one is inadvertently spreading viruses. Also, consider getting a rapid test five days after a gathering or if people start to feel sick. She said taking all of these precautions to reduce your risk of infection will be key, she says, to completing — and enjoying — the holidays.
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