Holiday traditions are important.
So is the health of family and friends.
There are ways to minimize health risks if you’re hosting a holiday gathering and still enjoy the beloved traditions of the season.
"I think this year, we're in a different place," said clinical nurse specialist Alice Benjamin. "We've had vaccines, we have testing readily available. I think we're in a safer place to do so, but you've still got to take those extra precautions."
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Getting vaccinated remains the best defense. Getting a booster shot further increases protection. But it takes two weeks for the COVID vaccines to be fully effective.
So the Los Angeles County Health Department, state health officials and medical experts offer some advice about what can be done on the day of a holiday party or gathering to minimize the risk of spreading COVID.
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Think Location, Location, Location
Avoid places where COVID spreads more easily, like closed spaces with poor airflow. Crowded spaces where there are people from different households and close contact settings — especially where people are talking, singing and laughing — also pose higher risks.
Gathering outdoors is best. If that’s not possible, indoor airflow can be improved by opening doors and windows, using fans and air cleaners, and turning on the HVAC system.
Get a COVID Test
This is an especially good idea if you’ve invited people who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID. A positive result means you have an infection and should avoid gatherings. A negative test means you may not have an infection. The CDC recommends repeating the test with at least 24 hours between tests to increase the confidence that you’re not infected.
“The steps Californians can take to protect themselves and their loved ones during the holidays are a few key ones," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. "First, if you’re sick and having symptoms stay home. Don’t go to the holiday party, don’t go mix with people who may be vulnerable if you spread an infection to them. Secondly, before you gather consider getting tested. Tests are widely available, there are many testing sites, get tested.”
Remember that COVID symptoms can appear anywhere form two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, the CDC says.
Wear a Face Mask
Masks are recommended indoors. Outdoors, it’s a good idea to wear one if the place is crowded with people who are unvaccinated, guests with an increased risk of severe illness, or when you just don’t know someone’s vaccination status.
The California Department of Public Health says masks are optional if everyone at an indoor gathering is fully vaccinated.
Setting the Table
Set the tables so people sit with members of the same household, if possible. Leave some distance at the table between non-household members.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Wash hands before and after preparing the holiday meal. Have hand sanitizers available for guests. Think about recruiting some assigned servers so not everyone is touching shared items.
Your Home, Your Rules
Doctors and nurses told the NBC4 I-Team that hosts should consider asking guesting to show proof of a negative test or full vaccination. About 30 percent of the country is still partially vaccinated or fully unvaccinated.