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How to Avoid a COVID Christmas

If only we could put the coronavirus on a hard No Fly List and Christmas and New Year’s Eve Party Blacklist this holiday season. Unfortunately, in the real, very harsh COVID-filled world we live in, that’s not possible.

The sad truth is harmful germs and pathogens will be with us wherever we go and turn this holiday season, along with the very real threat of the coronavirus and its vastly growing group of dangerous strains and variants. Our best defense against winding up on the COVID-19 List this season is through diligent hygiene, masking and smart gathering practices.

After nearly two years of hard social distancing, Iowans are poised to join celebrations once again, especially during the most festive season of the year. However, COVID safety must remain a priority.

For the enemy lurks everywhere, including in new, terrifying, easily transmissible forms.

The newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant could make the “holiday season even more perilous across the nation,” the Los Angeles Times cautioned on November 27. “Even before the Omicron variant was discovered, health officials were warning of a winter wave of COVID-19 as society regroups for holiday events and travel, and cold weather keeps more people indoors. While it’s not clear how dangerous the new variant is, it’s adding urgency to efforts to get more people vaccinated – and to get booster shots for those with waning immunity – and to follow masking and other safety rules, experts say.”

At the Christmas dinner table, at the office Christmas party, at church, at the mall, in the gym, at the basketball arena, viruses, and specifically, the coronavirus or its symptoms, will likely be present. And if we’ve learned anything over the last two years of this global pandemic that has killed almost 800,000 Americans and counting, it’s that COVID doesn’t care if it’s not invited to an event. It crashes parties anyway and anywhere.

“We are in a constant battle with this virus,” Dr. Kristen Bibbins-Domingo, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, told the Times. “We have to always be vigilant, and we neither have to overreact to this (the Omicron variant) or assume that there is no threat at all.”

Health experts recommend people and companies hosting family, office, school and church parties and events take extra precautions during holiday gatherings, including testing attendees and hosting events outdoors if possible, or indoors with air filtration devices. A Medical News Today found that up to half of Americans hosting parties plan to inquire about their potential guests’ vaccination status.

Beyond keeping a bottle of Avant hand sanitizer handy, here are the Wexner Medical Center’s Safety Tips for Holiday Gatherings this season:

  • Wear masks
  • Ask attendees about their vaccination status before extending an invitation
  • Keep gatherings and celebrations small
  • Considering celebrating with only your immediate family and those already living in your household
  • For potential hosts – or guests – with elevated health risks, reconsider the gathering or ask beforehand about the vaccination status of guests

The good news is President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, and the country’s health professionals are giving the thumbs up to safe, responsible holiday gatherings.

“If everyone in attendance is vaccinated and are without major health risks, you can have a safe, small gathering without a lot of additional precautions,” Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Wexner Medical Center, told Medical News Today. “Unvaccinated individuals really pose the greatest threat, and that’s when it becomes necessary to put some rules and precautions in place, even though those conservations can be a little bit awkward.”

We are a COVID-weary country and extremely exhausted at hearing Keep Your COVID Guard Up. But for the sake of us all this holiday season, we can’t let our guard down against the Greatest COVID Threats of Christmas.

For nothing says Bah Humbug like the coronavirus.

“If anything, the silver lining of Omicron is it’s a wakeup call for all those people thinking we’re at the end of this,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told the LA Times. “No, we’re not – not by any stretch, unfortunately.”