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Health expert: Safe holidays call for vaccinations

As families prepare to get together for the holidays, a local health expert recommend that eligible people get vaccinated and to be aware of each other’s vaccine status.

Holiday plans are in the works as people get ready to uphold traditions and gather with family for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and more.

However, health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend that eligible people get vaccinated and to be aware of the vaccine status of others before the celebrations begin.

“The number one thing we can do is get vaccinated. When you think about Thanksgiving, you can still get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine by the 11th of November to be safe for Thanksgiving,” said Brian Castrucci, an epidemiologist, president and CEO of the Bethesda-based De Beaumont Foundation — a nonprofit devoted to improving public health.

A decline in the rate of COVID-19 infections is expected to encourage more people to gather for holiday parties, but Castrucci said that doesn’t mean people should let down their guard. Multi-generational families, unvaccinated children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk of infection.

“The way to really mitigate our risk is to ensure that everyone in the room is either vaccinated or recently tested and tested negative,” Castrucci said.

Because face masks are more than likely to come off when people gather to celebrate with food and drink, Castrucci said it’s essential to inquire about whether others are vaccinated.

“I think it’s totally fair in protecting my health … to ask people whom I’m gathering with ‘what’s your vaccination status?’ and if they’re not vaccinated, they can test,” he said.

Castrucci said the “super safe” can also travel with COVID-19 test kits.

There are those with medical conditions and religious objections who are unvaccinated and others who have declined to get vaccinated but Castrucci insisted vaccination is an important step in being protected at holiday parties.

“We have some time before the Christmas holidays, Moderna and Pfizer (vaccines) before the 20th of November and you’ll still be safe for Christmas — so, that’s number one get vaccinated,” he said.

Castrucci and the CDC also recommend well-fitting masks in public indoor settings if you’re not fully vaccinated and mask-wearing for those fully vaccinated in indoor settings in communities with substantial or high transmission rates.

“There’s a way for us to do this and keep ourselves safe. There’s no need to throw caution to the wind and really risk getting something for Christmas that no one wants which is a COVID infection,” he said.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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