Though Halloween is still almost four weeks on the horizon, and Thanksgiving more than three weeks beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed guidance on how Americans can celebrate the holidays safely amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC first recommends that people celebrate remotely from friends and family this year. After Thanksgiving last year, COVID cases surged to what was then their highest point of the pandemic. But they rose further still after New Year’s, with some days nearing 300,000 new infections across the country.
“Attending gatherings to celebrate events and holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC said. “The safest way to celebrate is virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least six feet apart from others.”
The agency recommended celebrating over video conference, having an outdoor gathering in which attendees social distanced and dropping off food for friends, family, or neighbors in a way that does not involve contact.
But with more than half the country fully vaccinated, many people will still elect to celebrate in-person this year.
Above all, the CDC recommended getting one of the highly highly safe and effective vaccines, which are shown to significantly reduce risk of contracting and getting seriously ill from the virus. People should wear a mask if they are unvaccinated, the CDC said, and even vaccinated people should consider masks indoors in areas of high transmission.
The CDC said that gathering outdoors is safer than doing so indoors, regardless of whether guests are vaccinated or not. Breakthrough cases of COVID are still possible for vaccinated people who have been exposed to the virus, though they are rare and generally much less severe than cases in unvaccinated people.
If celebrating inside, proper ventilation can be important, the CDC said. Opening doors and windows, or blowing air outside via a window fan, can help to properly bring fresh air into a home.
The CDC recommends against traveling if you are unvaccinated. But for those committed to traveling, such as the millions who did so last year, the agency suggests a range of strategies depending on the method and destination of travel.
On public transportation, including airplanes, all people are required to wear a masks, the CDC said.
If they are vaccinated or contracted COVID within the last three months, people do not need to test or quarantine upon arrival to their destination. But after travel, the CDC said, all people should monitor for symptoms and get tested if they develop any.
For the unvaccinated, the agency recommends avoiding travel entirely. But those who must travel should get a test within three days of leaving. After arriving, take a viral test three-to-five days later, and quarantine for a full seven days — regardless of the results of the test.
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