Gathering safely for the holidays

While COVID-19 is still a risk, there are several actions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible during this holiday season.

COVID-19

In October 2020, PIRG released “Home safe for the holidays,” a guide to navigating the increased COVID-19 risk of holiday travel and gatherings. While circumstances have improved significantly since then, health experts are expecting a COVID-19 surge this winter as new variants and subvariants run rampant. Here are several actions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible during the holiday season.

Make sure you’re up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Being fully vaccinated is currently the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones. The new bivalent booster has been authorized for all individuals ages 5 and up. (Moderna has been authorized for those 6 and up, Pfizer-BioNTech for those 5 and up). If you received your last COVID-19 vaccine dose more than two months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get the bivalent booster as soon as possible. However, if you have recently been infected with COVID-19, you may want to wait until 3 months after your first positive test to maximize the immunity provided by the vaccine. Remember that it takes two weeks for your body to respond to the shot and provide significant protection.

Get your flu shot. As health experts urge boosters before a likely COVID-19 winter surge, they are also expecting a bad flu season, especially for children. Consider getting the flu shot and the COVID-19 bivalent booster simultaneously to save time. 

Test repeatedly before gathering. Rapid at-home tests are a quick and easy way to limit your risk of spreading COVID-19 to loved ones. The Food and Drug Administration recommends repeat testing to help ensure a more accurate result. A good rule of thumb is to test two days before traveling and then again the night before you head out. 

Wear a high-quality mask when you travel to and from family gatherings. Nothing ruins a holiday meal like bringing COVID-19 back to the family. The week of Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest travel times of the year, so your risk of infection will likely increase as you’re around more people in airports, on buses and trains, or when you stop at a rest area on the road. As you travel to and from holiday gatherings, wear a tight-fitting, medical-grade mask like an N-95, KN-95, or KF94 whenever you’re indoors with other people. 

Encourage your friends and family to take precautions. Set the expectation that everyone should test ahead of any in-person gatherings, and encourage everyone to wear masks while they’re traveling as well. 

As we approach another holiday season clouded by COVID-19, it’s important to remember that there are concrete ways to limit your risk and that of your loved ones. Taking sensible precautions is worth it to gather and celebrate safely with friends and family. 

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Authors

Louis Sokolow

Public Health Campaigns Associate

Started on staff: 2022
B.A., Yale University

As PIRG’s public health campaigns associate, Louis helps drive PIRG’s work to stop antibiotic overuse in agriculture, as well as promote effective pandemic prevention and preparedness measures. Louis loves birding, choral singing, and watching the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Wellington

Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

Matt directs PIRG's public health campaigns, including campaigns to address the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections by stopping the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, and to reverse the alarming increase in teen nicotine addiction by banning tobacco products marketed to kids. Matt is an avid outdoorsman and loves to play the drums and harmonica.

Louis Sokolow

Public Health Campaigns, Associate, PIRG

Louis works on research, writing and coalition building for PIRG's public health campaigns. Louis lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, and loves birding across New England, choral singing (especially Dvořák) and watching the Red Sox.

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