• By DeeDee Stiepan

Navigating the holidays safely

November 19, 2021
a Black family of several generations having fun at Thanksgiving dinner table

As the holidays approach, COVID-19 cases are surging in parts of the U.S., and community transmission is high. With more people planning to travel and gather in the weeks to come, health experts are issuing updated guidance for how to celebrate the holiday season safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers safer ways to celebrate the holidays, advising that the best way to minimize the risk of being infected with COVID-19, and keep friends and family safer, is for those who are eligible to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

With Thanksgiving just a week away, Dr. Abinash Virk, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician, offers her recommendations for how to celebrate the holidays safely.

Watch: Dr. Abinash Virk offers her recommendations for how to celebrate the holidays safely.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Virk are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: "Abinash Virk, M.D. / Infectious Diseases / Mayo Clinic."

"We do recommend, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where there's an increase in the number of cases, that people are extremely cautious about getting together for Thanksgiving," says Dr. Virk.

"It's best if everyone in the room is vaccinated. Also, even if they are vaccinated, be a little bit more cautious if you are in a work environment where you have a higher exposure to COVID-19. For individuals who are not vaccinated, I think it's going to be a little bit more important to limit the size of your get-together so that, particularly if you have elderly or immunocompromised family members, that they're not put at risk for infection."

Precautions for people gathering from multiple households

"We know that if people are vaccinated and have had their boosters, they're going to be at lower risk, even if they are traveling. Again, limiting the size would be really important in this situation because if people are coming from other areas, it depends on where they've been, what they've been doing, and how careful they've been about the exposures. So it is going to be a little bit more challenging, and there is the risk to the people who are getting together."

Are home testing kits recommended?

"I would say that, yes, people can do the antigen tests ― the over-the-counter tests that are available. They're not as sensitive as the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, and in general, we do recommend that the antigen test is repeated again in about three days to be more, have a better sensitivity of that result. Yes, I would encourage doing that, particularly if you have somebody who's immunocompromised or elderly in your family. I have done that myself."

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For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date

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