Keep COVID-19 in Mind as You Make Plans to Celebrate the Holiday Season

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have fallen statewide, and we are hopeful this encouraging trend continues. Last year, an upsurge of infections and deaths from COVID-19 was experienced following the holidays. As the past months have demonstrated, however, the course of this pandemic is unpredictable, and it is wise to keep COVID-19 precautions in mind as you plan activities for the upcoming holidays to prevent what might become another post-holiday surge.

Protecting the health of your family while enjoying holiday traditions this year means having all eligible people get vaccinated for COVID-19 and taking other steps to minimize risk during the weeks ahead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following recommendations of safer ways to celebrate the holidays:

  • Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
    -- Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.
    -- Outdoors is safer than indoors.
    -- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
    -- If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
    -- Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Special Considerations

  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
  • You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
  • If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you could consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel, taking a test) in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.
  • Do NOT put a mask on children younger than 2 years old.

Effective safety measures should allow everyone to enjoy the holiday festivities while minimizing the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and its severe outcomes to others. No single solution exists for all, and all risks cannot be eliminated. For some individuals, families, or groups with vulnerable seniors or members with chronic health conditions, virtual gatherings or outdoor celebrations may be advisable again this year.

Despite the sharp rise in post-holiday infections last year, social distancing, mask wearing, and other mitigation measures taken over the holiday season likely prevented countless COVID-19 cases and saved lives. Do your part by being vaccinated and being considerate of others such as young children and the immunocompromised in planning your holiday celebrations. Your efforts can help prevent needless suffering and loss of life.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(November 2021)