In the next week, millions of people will be attending or hosting holiday gatherings, unlike a year ago when there were no vaccines available and public health experts told everyone to stay home.
Those same experts are now saying it's safe to attend gatherings, if you take certain precautions. They suggest if you're hosting a dinner or party, consider asking your guests to show proof of vaccination before entering.
"I think it's perfectly OK, in your home, to set the rules and set the standards," says Nurse Alice Benjamin, a veteran Family Nurse Practitioner and NBC Medical Contributor. "So if you want to ask that your guests be vaccinated, I think that's an OK requirement to have," Benjamin added.
Close to 30% of Americans are still partially or fully unvaccinated. So experts say consider asking those guests to show proof of a negative COVID test within three days of attending a party or dinner.
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"If you're going to have a party, if you're going to partake in some type of event where you're going to be around strangers, it's always a good thing to get tested before the event and then even a couple of days after, just to make sure you haven't been exposed," Nurse Benjamin says.
Medical experts remind us the pandemic is still far from over, and southern California hospitals continue to be busy, like USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale.
"With the original or first surge, we saw a number of patients up to the teens in the hospital. Well guess what? We're at about that same level now, says Dr. Armand Dorian, CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
While there are drugs on the horizon that could treat some COVID patients, like Pfizer's Paxlovid, public health experts are still urging everyone to get vaccinated this winter season.
"I thought everybody would want to get this vaccine," says Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"We know that Covid is a clear and present danger, and you've got this great solution that science has developed, and people should be clamoring for it the way they clamor for new iPhones," Dr. Adalja told the I-Team.
If you'd like to get a free Covid test, experts say the best resource is LA County's website. Some locations now even offer a rapid PCR test, considered more accurate than the rapid antigen test. The I-Team also found available appointments and walk-in options at major pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid.