Q: We have lots of indoor gatherings planned with family and friends. What can we do to mitigate the risk of getting sick (from COVID, the flu and colds)?
A: This winter we have almost three years of experience with hand washing, mask wearing and knowing when to stay home. We are all experts in reducing disease transmission now! Let’s review a few key points to make sure everyone enjoys time with family and friends while transmitting the least amount of illness possible.
First, get vaccinated! By this time everyone should have had their flu shot and bivalent COVID boosters, which are available for everyone 5 years of age and older. This one is easy.
Secondly, if you are sick, stay home. A big change we have seen with COVID (maybe even a silver lining?) is that people are generally much better at staying home if they have symptoms. You want to share love and memories, not germs. Two major circulating viruses in the winter include influenza and RSV. These can potentially be much more severe for infants under 2 and those with risk factors (such as asthma) than COVID. There is no vaccine or treatment for RSV, so avoidance is the best strategy. I am often asked if it’s OK for a sick guest to attend gatherings while wearing a mask. That’s up to you — know that there is still a risk of transmission, especially when the mask comes off for eating and drinking holiday treats.
Finally, keep up the great work with good hand-washing practices. Wash hands before and after food preparation and eating to your song of choice for at least 20 seconds with warm and soapy water.
In summary, get vaccinated, stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, and have a wonderful holiday season!