As the weather begins to cool and the holidays approach, people naturally will start thinking about making holiday plans with family. While the holidays are a great time for celebrating special moments with friends and family, it’s important for everyone to consider ways to keep their loved ones safe.
“The danger of spreading or contracting COVID-19 is still very real,” said Long Nguyen, DO, Family Medicine Specialist with ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma. Dr. Nguyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic, providing recommendations for vaccinations, testing and treatment. “The best way to protect everyone present is to limit your family gatherings to those who are fully vaccinated.”
A person is considered fully vaccinated if they have received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Additionally, people should consider getting a booster shot when eligible. ThedaCare is currently scheduling booster shots for groups who are eligible.
If it isn’t possible for everyone at an event to be vaccinated, or if the vaccination status of the guests is unknown, the next best precaution is to encourage mask-wearing, Dr. Nguyen said. Unvaccinated guests may include children under age 12 as they are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
“While we naturally want to greet friends and family at holiday gatherings, the pandemic is an unusual situation that requires attention and caution,” he said. “It’s best to ask people to greet each other from a distance, which can help keep kids and others who aren’t vaccinated safer from the virus.”
Additionally, it’s important to remember that people with compromised immune systems due to medications or health conditions are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, even when they have been vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these individuals should follow all precautions recommended for people who are unvaccinated, including wearing a mask and avoiding crowded indoor spaces.
Families who will have a person with a compromised immune system at their gathering should take extra precautions to protect that person, including wearing masks and spacing out seating to create social distancing.
The CDC recommends that even people who are fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors in public settings where transmission is high. The CDC additionally recommends people who want to hold holiday parties should ideally meet outdoors. When meeting outside isn’t possible, keeping windows or doors open and using a window fan to help push air outside can help keep the air fresh and reduce the spread of viruses.
Families who plan to gather with people from multiple households, or travel from other parts of the country, should consider taking additional measures, including avoiding crowds prior to travel or getting COVID-19 tests before the event, Dr. Nguyen said.
“If you are sick or if you have any symptoms, you should cancel your plans to help keep others safe from the virus,” Dr. Nguyen said. “While we all look forward to getting back to traditional celebrations and events, it’s still important to continue practicing precautions so that we can do our best to stay healthy.”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, congestion or runny news, a headache or muscle/body aches, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell.
Patients should seek emergency care if they have trouble breathing, have a persistent pain or pressure in their chest, have trouble staying awake, are confused or have pale, gray or blue-colored skin or lips, according to the CDC.
For more information about COVID-19, schedule a vaccine, find a testing location, view online care options and community resources, as well as other important news and updates, please visit thedacarecovid19.org/.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.