For many Americans, plans to gather with friends and family for the holidays are looking more normal than last year at this time. It’s a good-news, bad-news situation: “For the first time in a while, many of you may be meeting with some of the most vulnerable members of your household, and doing it up close, and indoors,” says CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That increases the risk of transmitting COVID—even if you’ve been vaccinated—which means it’s a good idea to take some precautions. Here’s what Gupta advises to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“The more vaccinated people there are, the better,” says Gupta. “Nothing is perfect, but the vaccines are really, really good. They’re effective.” According to CDC data, vaccinated people are eight times less likely to contract COVID and 11 times less likely to die. “You get vaccinated to protect yourself, but also to protect your family members,” he says.
Get Tested—Even At Home
One strategy for keeping holiday gatherings safe is to use at-home COVID tests. “It’s one of the best tools we have, and I don’t think we talk about it enough,” says Gupta. If you’re vaccinated, you can take a rapid antigen test to see if you’ve contracted a breakthrough case of COVID and are contagious. The tests cost about $20 for a set of two.
Keep Your Gathering Ventilated
COVID spreads most easily indoors, through stagnant air. To lower your risk at a holiday gathering, keep the air moving with ventilation. “Think of the virus kind of like smoke. If there is smoke outdoors, you’re going to be less likely to breathe it in, right? But indoors, if you have that same smoke, it’s going to increase the chances of those particles getting breathed in,” says Gupta, who notes that even cracking a window can help.
“Masks are also still essential in staying safe,” says Gupta. “Remember, there’s still a lot of virus out there. As you may be spending time with people who are higher risk, masks are going to be important in public spaces as well. When you go to a public space, you don’t know the vaccination status or infection status of those around you.” N95 or KN95 masks offer the most protection.
Know Your Local Risk
It’s especially important to mask if the transmission rate in your local area is high, says Gupta. He notes you can easily check this on the CDC website, “almost like checking the weather.”
Talk Honestly With the People Coming to Your Gatherings
“The key is to remember to have an open conversation with those who want to spend time with over the holidays,” says Gupta. “Let them know your concerns, what it might take to make you and your family feel safer, and basically go from there: ‘Here’s my COVID test results now. No COVID. So between this test result and me being fully vaccinated, I already feel a lot safer.'” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.