Living Well

Celebrating the holidays safely during an ongoing pandemic

Dr. Falguni Patel. Internal Medicine
Celebrating the holidays safely during an ongoing pandemic

Celebrating the holidays safely during an ongoing pandemic

There’s no denying that Christmas 2020 was one of the strangest most of us have probably experienced. Still battling high COVID infections and their impacts, normal holiday gatherings were canceled, and families had no choice but to turn to virtual celebrations. Now with a vaccine and a dramatic decline in infections and hospitalizations, normalcy is inching back into our lives, and this year, more people are gathering in person to celebrate. It’s a wonderful feeling, but keep in mind, we all still need to be cautious as we gather to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

Enjoy the holidays but don’t let your guard down

If you scan national news, you will see some states reporting a spike in COVID cases following the Thanksgiving holiday, while at the same time, other states are experiencing a decline in cases. Louisiana saw a slight uptick in COIVD since Thanksgiving and is now dealing with reported cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. What this shows is that despite a lot of positive news on the battle with this pandemic, we are still a long way from conquering it, which means we still need to be careful and take precautions. While the COVID grinch may have stolen our holidays last year, more of us are gathering in person to celebrate this year, and if you are among them, health officials say safety should come first, and there are things you can do to celebrate safely:

  • Protect those who are not eligible to get the vaccine, such as young children and those with underlying health issues who are not vaccinated
  • If you are traveling to communities that are still experiencing high rates of infection, mask up, especially indoors, as you mingle among people
  • Avoid large crowds indoors if in poorly ventilated space
  • If you are taking medications that weaken your immune system or if you have a health issue that puts you at risk, extra caution should be taken regardless of your vaccination status
  • If you are experiencing any symptoms, avoid gatherings until you can determine your health status
  • If at all possible, celebrate outdoors where it’s safer to gather as people can spread out and not be so clustered

After celebrating with family or friends over the holidays, it’s essential to communicate with everyone if there is a case of COVID reported by someone you associated with, as everyone in contact with that person needs to be alerted.

Some travel has gotten a little trickier

For now, the days of running to the airport and casually hopping on a plane are non-existent as there are COVID restrictions in place if you plan on flying or taking a cruise over the holidays. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extensive information on travel requirements, including vaccination guidelines, which do vary for travel within the United States or internationally. As a reminder, if you are traveling internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 test, regardless of your vaccination status, one day before leaving. If you are in need of a rapid test, know that our medical network, LCMC Health, offers many locations where you can get rapid testing done.

And on a positive note, if you haven’t heard the news, there are now several at-home COVID testing kits now available that are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Having a few in the house is an excellent way of keeping those around you healthy. The CDC is recommending that if you do plan on having an indoor gathering over the holidays, suggest that all attendees self-test prior to the occasion. This is just an added layer of safety for all those gatherings. And If you should start feeling bad at any time or learn you’ve been exposed to COVID, you can easily self-test at home and then contact your doctor if you do test positive.

It’s nice to see some normalcy coming back into our lives and holiday events taking place, but, again, keep in mind, safety must come first, and that means we all have to do our part.

From everyone at West Jefferson Medical Center, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

About Dr. Patel

After completing her Bachelor's of Science at Louisiana State University (LSU), Dr. Patel attended medical school at Ross University School of Medicine, followed by the completion of her Internal Medicine training at LSU Lafayette. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and has been practicing hospital medicine for the past 3 years at West Jefferson Medical Center.