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COVID Safety and the Holidays: How to Protect Yourself and Others

Nov 22, 2021 10:07AM ● By Med Magazine

The holiday season is here; unfortunately, COVID-19 is still here too.

COVID safety remains vital, especially as people are traveling and attending family gatherings.

For the past three months, Avera has seen a steady and high number of hospitalizations of around 100 due to COVID-19, with some patients in the ICU for weeks and even months. That’s in addition to a high number of patients due to other illnesses and conditions. “Our hospitals across the system have been running at or near capacity, and health care workers are weary. The best gift people can give to our health care heroes is to help curb the spread of COVID-19,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Avera Medical Group Quality.

“We’re equally concerned for the general public. Many people want to be done with the pandemic. They’ve stopped worrying about it. But it’s still possible to get a severe case of COVID. Even young, healthy people – including children and teens – are being affected,” Basel said.

“It’s understandable that families and friends want to gather at this time of the year, Basel said. Yet you can still take important actions to protect yourself, your loved ones, your neighbors, friends and coworkers:

Get vaccinated. “This is our top defense against COVID-19,” Basel said. Anyone age 5 and older can now get vaccinated, and many people who were vaccinated several months ago are now eligible for boosters. “If you’re eligible for a booster, now is a great time to get it.”

Millions of people have safely received the vaccines. In most cases, vaccines are preventing illness altogether. When those rare breakthrough cases happen, the illness is generally mild with a lower chance of hospitalization or death. “The vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to do and they’re making a huge difference,” Basel said. You can learn more about where to get vaccinated at vaccines.gov.

Stay home when you’re sick. And, keep children home when they have possible cold or flu symptoms. “Don’t assume it’s a common cold or the flu – it could be COVID-19,” Basel said. “It’s important to isolate at home until you know for sure. Otherwise might expose someone who is vulnerable, like an elderly grandparent or infant.”

Get tested. If you develop cold or flu symptoms, such as headache, cough, fever, congestion or diarrhea, get tested to see if it’s COVID-19. If the test comes back positive, isolate at home for 10 days since symptoms began.

Practice mitigation. Observe other measures that add another layer of protection, such as social distancing, washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask when you’re in a public setting.

Here are more tips for safely celebrating the holidays:

  • Avoid communities with high positivity rates. Instead, try sharing a meal via video, or take extra precautions when you visit.
  • Celebrate outdoors when possible, or open windows and doors for better ventilation indoors.
  • Rather than passing serving dishes or serving buffet style, make up everyone’s plate for them while wearing a mask and using good hand hygiene. 

Learn more about COVID symptoms, testing and vaccination at Avera.org/covid-vaccine.