If you’re wondering what the rise in COVID-19 and flu cases, and the new Omicron variant means for holiday gatherings or travel, Lisa Y. Harris, MD, vice president of medical affairs at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, has some answers.
What is the best way to protect ourselves this holiday?
Get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster. And consider getting the flu vaccine. It’s safe to get both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time through your local pharmacy.
What about the new Omicron COVID-19 variant? Can it infect vaccinated people, too?
We’re still learning about the Omicron variant. What we do know is that it may spread faster than the Delta Variant which is still making up the majority of new COVID-19 cases. We also know overall that getting vaccinated remains your best defense against severe illness and hospitalization. The majority of cases and hospitalizations continue to be in unvaccinated people.
At this time, children age 5 and over are all eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Everyone 16 years of age and older are now able to receive both the COVID-19 and the booster vaccine.
Should we get together with others this holiday? What if I’m feeling a little under the weather, or someone in my family is?
If you’re not feeling well, it’s best to stay home.
Should I wear a mask and self-test before indoor gatherings?
As of right now, for indoor gatherings in a private residence, the CDC has shared these tips:
- Consider a self-test for COVID-19 before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.
- Do not host or attend gatherings if you are sick or have symptoms.
- When getting together with members from different households you can reduce risk to you and others by considering additional precautions before your gathering, such as testing, masking or social distancing.
For public spaces, follow the guidance where you live. The CDC currently recommends that if you are fully vaccinated you should wear a mask indoors if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission or if you are immunocompromised or at risk for severe disease.
I’m traveling this holiday. Is it safe?
So far, the CDC indicates traveling in the United States is still pretty safe if you are vaccinated and more so if you have your booster. Masks may be mandated in areas where you may be travelling. Wearing a mask and maintaining social distance is still recommended.
Find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 online at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.