Some days the coronavirus makes it feel like we’re trapped in a “Twilight Zone” episode.
Every time the pandemic seems like it’s winding down, and it finally feels like we might be winning the battle against the virus, it starts back up all over again.
Welcome to the COVID zone.
Unfortunately, I can’t end what’s going on out there. But what I can do is provide some tips that can help make things a heck of a lot easier on you during the rest of this holiday season and beyond.
And I can do it without the finger-wagging lectures we’ve come to expect from the TV know-it-alls who try to shame you for wanting to spend time with family and friends.
There are no guarantees when it comes to the coronavirus, of course. But you CAN take some steps to make your celebrations far safer.
Plan holiday celebrations with safety in mind
In some ways, it’s like a game of whack-a-mole.
The virus numbers drop in New York then surge in Florida. Then when cases in Florida go down, maybe they jump in Michigan. And so on.
And everywhere you look, politicians left and right are pointing their fingers at each other. As if their quarreling is any help to the rest of us.
Instead of making things better, the bickering leaves everyone more confused. In some cases, frightened. And still wondering: What’s safe and what’s not?
Can I visit my relatives for a holiday party? Can I fly across the country? Do I still need a mask? And what in the heck is going on with the vaccine?
Well, as I said earlier, there are never any guarantees with this bug. Reckless people can get lucky and avoid catching the coronavirus. While other folks who are super careful still end up getting sick.
But you CAN minimize your chances of getting infected and still celebrate the season despite a looming fifth wave of the virus.
You simply need to plan your holiday celebrations with safety in mind.
Reduce coronavirus risks over the holidays
First, hang on to your mask. I know this has become a political battle, but I’m going to be perfectly blunt here. It shouldn’t be.
Wearing a mask is the most basic level of protection. In fact, yet another new study just concluded that masks can cut the odds of COVID-19 infection by up to 53 percent.
Second, if you haven’t been vaccinated, please consider it. And if you’ve been vaccinated, get your booster.
I know we rolled up our sleeves with the understanding that the vaccine would restore life to “normal,” and we didn’t get it. But we’re in uncharted territory here and learning more each day as we go.
Scientists were indeed working on mRNA vaccines for decades before the coronavirus appeared. But it took the pandemic to spur the innovations needed to bring one to the global market. That means we had to wait to see how long their protection would last.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve found that just like several other vaccines we’re already familiar with, the protection the COVID-19 vaccines offer against catching the coronavirus does wane over time. But the great news is that multiple studies show boosters restore most of the initial effectiveness.
Plus, even as protection against infection dips, the vaccines continue to minimize the risk of hospitalization and death.
Third, if you’re in an especially vulnerable group… for example, if you have immune dysfunction or are recovering from cancer therapy… talk to your doctor about what extra safety measures you may need to take this holiday season.
And fourth, if you’re not immune-compromised (or have your doc’s OK if you are), most experts agree you can visit family for holiday gatherings and travel. But taking a few precautions can help keep everyone safer.
Protect yourself. Protect your family.
When it comes to holiday celebrations, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your risks of catching the coronavirus and the risks of the folks you care about.
- Drive to your celebrations if you can.
- If you do need to fly, wear a mask in the airport and on the plane.
- Be ready to adjust to conditions as you go, and cancel plans if you or anyone around you develops symptoms.
It’s also a good idea to add an extra layer of safety by having everyone at the gathering get tested for a coronavirus infection beforehand. Ideally, you should get one of the free PCR tests that are now widely available. Search online for options near you.
You can also purchase at-home kits from the drugstore that can be used right before any party or gathering. They’re not quite as accurate, but still useful.
And for even more protection, have as much of your gathering outdoors as possible and open windows when inside. That may not always be possible, depending on where you live. But being outside and having good airflow indoors can help disperse the coronavirus, so it doesn’t accumulate, cutting the risk of transmission.