Remember holiday season 2020? We argued that the safest move was to have Thanksgiving at home and postpone big Christmas gatherings to next year, when we would hopefully all have vaccines. (The first COVID vaccines were authorised in December, if you’ll recall.) This year, things are different, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The CDC has updated their holiday celebrations page just in time to plan those seasonal get-togethers.
Here are their tips, which correspond pretty well with the kind of common-sense stuff a lot of us are doing anyway.
Kids are still vulnerable to COVID-19
While there’s hope that children under 12 may be able to get vaccines soon, that’s not the case yet, and even if you get your kids their shots on the earliest possible day, it takes time for immunity to build. (Two weeks after the final dose of a series is still the definition of “fully vaccinated.”)
Some recommendations for protecting kids:
- Get everybody around them vaccinated.
- Even if you’re vaccinated, you may want to wear a mask when you go to holiday parties if you have kids at home, the better to protect them.
- Kids should wear masks for indoor gatherings with people outside their household, except children under 2.
- Children under 2 shouldn’t wear masks. (This isn’t because masks are bad or don’t work; it’s in large part because little ones will chew on the masks or drool through them.)
Do we still need masks for the holidays?
You probably know the drill by now, but if not, these considerations still apply:
- If you’re not fully vaccinated and you will be spending time indoors with people who don’t live in your household, you should definitely wear a mask.
- If you are vaccinated, but you’ll be spending time indoors with people who don’t live in your household, a mask is recommended if transmission in your area is “substantial” or “high.” (You can look up the county-level map here, but spoiler: this is almost everybody.)
- If you have a weakened immune system, you should get vaccinated but then keep protecting yourself with a mask as an extra layer of protection, since some immunocompromised people don’t mount a full immune response to the vaccine and you won’t necessarily know if this is you.
- If you have a vulnerable person at home, you may want to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated.
Where should we have our party?
- Indoor, crowded spaces are still bad news.
- Outdoors is better than indoors if you have the option.
And as always, please do not attend or host a gathering if you aren’t feeling well.
What about travelling?
If you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC doesn’t have any special recommendations for you, besides that you must wear a mask on public transportation (it’s the law) and that you should consider the guidelines above about where to wear a mask.
If you’re travelling with kids or other people who aren’t fully vaccinated, the CDC has a page explaining safe travel options. The safest way to travel is by taking a short road trip with very few stops. If you must fly, choose the route with the fewest stops or layovers; you don’t want to hang out in any more crowded airports than you need to.
For accommodations, the top choices are staying with vaccinated family, or renting an Airbnb or cabin where you get the whole place to yourself. And when you’re eating on the road, the safest way is to get takeout rather than eating inside a restaurant.