We can all agree that COVID-19 has overstayed its welcome. We’ve all been anxiously awaiting life to bounce back after the pandemic ends and to “get back to normal;” however, the consistent rise in numbers and introduction of new variants like Omicron (what people are jokingly referring to as the Omarion variant – is proving that our return to “business as usual is further away than we think.

During this holiday season, many people are making plans to travel and gather with family and friends, which can potentially create spreader events, allowing the virus to continue negatively impacting our community.

Fortunately, there are still a number of things we can do to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 and protect our loved ones during get-togethers. Here are 10 tips recommended by a number of medical organizations and the physicians of The Old North State Medical Society to stay safe during the holidays and into the New Year.

#1 Get vaccinated.

 To protect yourself and others, get vaccinated; or get the booster shot to decrease the likelihood of severe illness or death from COVID-19 and the variants of the virus. Visit www.onsms.org/get-vaxxed to find the location of vaccine clinics near you.

#2 Vaccinate kids.

Ensure children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old get vaccinated. On Oct. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old, providing an additional layer of protection to youth, families, and communities against the virus.

 #3 Wear a mask.

If hosting or attending a holiday gathering, guests who are not fully vaccinated should wear a face covering over the nose and mouth and maintain physical distance from others, especially when indoors. Attendees who are fully vaccinated should also wear a mask inside – primarily if the vaccination status of all guests isn’t known.

#4 Wash your hands.

Washing your hands frequently is still one of the most reliable ways to help reduce the transmission and spread of disease. Because of the frequency in which we touch our faces, it’s essential to keep hands clean by washing them often with warm, soapy water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

#5 Maintain physical distance.

Since it’s not always possible to know if everyone at an event is vaccinated, maintaining physical distance is another way to help protect each other. Honestly, it’s best to permanently activate the “Give me 6ft” rule to be safe.

#6 Remember to get your annual flu shot.

As we approach flu season, it’s essential to know that COVID-19 vaccines can be given simultaneously as the flu vaccine, adding a layer of protection from illness.

#7 Verify information sources.

Fake News is real. There is a lot of misinformation, disinformation, rumors, and speculation about COVID-19 and the vaccines. Be sure to rely on trusted medical sources and reliable agencies for accurate content to make informed decisions.

#8 Be careful and thoughtful.

If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and stay home; do not host or attend a gathering. Follow prescribed medical guidelines to recover and reduce the likelihood of making others sick.

#9 Host gatherings outdoors.

If weather permits and it’s practical, consider an outdoor space that allows social distancing and fresh air. If gathering indoors, use a large enough space to allow for physical distancing and consider limiting the number of attendees. Encourage guests to get vaccinated in advance, wear masks, maintain physical distance inside, and increase outdoor air circulation by opening windows and doors, if possible.

#10 Be patient.

It can be frustrating to limit activities and gatherings because of the pandemic. Still, it’s important to remember that while everyone is experiencing the same circumstances, everyone doesn’t think or respond the same way. Exercise a little more patience with others to keep conversations and special occasions enjoyable for all.

For safer holiday celebrations and gatherings while we are still in the pandemic, consider some of the following options:

  • Enjoy meals with individuals in your household only.  
  • Practicing religious holiday customs at home.
  • Watching and participating in religious and cultural performances virtually or outdoors.  
  • Attending religious ceremonies or holiday events virtually or outdoors.

Stay safe during the holidays!

By Dr. Tracei Ball, The Old North State Medical Society About The Old North State Medical Society:
Trusted since 1887, The Old North State Medical Society is one of the oldest medical societies in the nation established for African American physicians. The organization was created to further the interests of African American physicians and continues to support the claims of minority physicians. ONSMS focuses on educating and advocating for the most vulnerable patients and people residing in communities that consistently produce poorer health outcomes – and seeks to protect the quality of patient care in all communities of

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