Health officials offer tips for safe holiday gatherings

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, people are preparing to travel to be with family and friends for the holiday. However, with the pandemic still going on, health professionals urge people to travel and gather safely to keep COVID cases down and people healthy. 

“We just really want people to stop and think and ask themselves how they feel,” said Kathryn Glendon, public health specialist at Chesprocott Health District. “If they are not feeling well, really think about is this a good time for me to go to a family gathering, can you go get a rapid test?” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) is encouraging eligible Americans to get vaccinated so they can protect ineligible people, including young children, when partaking in public gatherings. Masks should be worn by all, vaccinated and unvaccinated, when in large indoor gatherings where social distancing cannot take place.

“Wear your mask,” Glendon said. “Wear your mask for yourself, wear your mask for others. If you’re not sure about what people’s vaccination status is and say you’re going to a holiday gathering, be confident in your choice to wear that.” 

Glendon has seen an uptick of COVID-19 cases recently. She asks people who contract the virus and those that are deemed close contacts to quarantine, even during the holiday.

“We want people to be mindful that we understand that you’re tired and we’re almost on year two of this pandemic, but we still need to remember that if you’re a close contact, you need to stay home and get tested after day five of exposure,” Glendon said. “We don’t want people out and about that need to be quarantined.” 

When it comes to people traveling, the CDC does recommend delaying travel via airplane until travelers are fully vaccinated. 

“Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations,” according to the CDC website. 

Glendon suggests everyone bring their own bottle of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes when flying. 

Along with washing hands and social distancing, the CDC and Glendon suggest that it doesn’t hurt to get tested before gathering with others from different households. 

“The best test to get is a PCR test,” Glendon said. “... I understand that it could take up to more than 24 hours to get your results. It’s more sensitive so it can pick up more of the lobe. If you absolutely have symptoms, an at-home test or a rapid test would be appropriate.” 

According to AP News, “combined with vaccination, home test kits for COVID-19 can add a layer of safety and reassurance by providing on-the-spot results during this second year of pandemic holidays.”

Glendon agreed that there is no harm with having guests take at-home tests, but if someone has symptoms and their at-home test comes back negative, they should follow up with a PCR test.

“We do accept positive at-home tests,” Glendon said. “If you test positive at home, we consider that a legit case and we’ll go forward with the isolation.”


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