aAfter the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, many families told Zoom ‘good luck’ and resumed in-person holiday gatherings — and with Increasing numbers of people are adopting pre-pandemic lifestylesIt’s safe to assume that will be the norm this year in the US, but the virus still infects tens of thousands of Americans every dayExperts fear There may be another hike in winterJust in time for the holidays.
If you’re planning to travel or meet with loved ones this holiday season, follow these expert recommendations to increase your chances of staying safe and healthy.
Get the boost now
Do you have to get a file omicron booster Now, or wait until before the holidays? Dr. Kristin Moffett, an infectious disease physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, suggests getting the shot now, rather than trying to time it right before holiday events. After vaccination, it takes a week or two for your immune response to develop. This protection should remain strong for at least two months, so “if people are boosted now, their maximum immunity from that boost will have them until the end of 2022,” Moffett says.
Before considering boosters, of course, you should make sure everyone in your family has had their initial vaccinations, says Dr. Lily Emglak, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Morehouse School of Medicine. This is particularly important advice for families with children, given the Extremely low vaccination rates among young children.
Quick test before assembly
When new variants emerge, there is often a concern that home tests will not be able to detect them. But Dr. Roy Gulick, chief of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian, says rapid testing must continue. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 Infection, since these variants are relatives of the Omicron.
Frequent testing can help prevent people in your circle from inadvertently spreading the virus at holiday events. When Immergluck’s relatives stayed together over the Fourth of July weekend, I asked everyone to take a quick test every day. “This is not 100%. [guarantee]’,’ she says, ‘but it’s as good as we can get’.
Gulick adds that if you test negative but have classic COVID-19 symptoms like sore throat, chills and body aches, it’s still best to stay home.
Stay safe while traveling
Masks are not required for most travel trips anymoreBut Gulick still recommends wearing one — at least during certain parts of your trip. In general, the air quality on planes is better than on buses and trains, so your chances of getting sick in the air are relatively low. But Gulick recommends wearing a mask while at the airport and when your plane is on the move, as the filtration systems may not turn on when the plane lands. And if you’re traveling by bus or train, it’s a good idea to go undercover during the whole trip.
Watch the data
The number of COVID-19 cases is not as accurate as it used to be. In large part because a lot of people are testing themselves now At home rather than using laboratories where results are reported to public health authorities. But there are still some metrics you can watch to see how widespread the virus is in your area. Emergelac says hospitalization and death rates remain strong indicators of the extent of the virus. Moffitt also recommends paying attention to testing positivity rates. Even if fewer people get tested in labs, knowing what percentage of tests came back positive is “a fairly reliable sign because it correlates with the number of tests that are taken,” she said.
Think about who you see
If you’ll be spending time with loved ones who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or elderly, you may want to step up your precautions, perhaps by hiding enclosed spaces or keeping the festivities outside. “We need protection [vulnerable] people by not giving them the virus,” Gulick says.
Don’t forget other viruses
COVID-19 has dominated our thinking for the past few years, but the flu and RSV are killing a lot of people right now. Moffett says that’s all the more reason to take precautions like wearing masks while traveling and avoiding high-risk places, like crowded indoor events, in the week or so before your vacation plans. Gulick says getting a flu shot is also an important winter health measure, and one of the other measures It can be done when you get a COVID-19 booster.
More must-read stories from TIME