Celebrate the holiday safely for a happier new year
Dec. 22, 2021
By Mary Wade Burnside
Last week marked the one-year anniversary since Americans began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
It seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel and a great way to end a horrible year.
But because it took a few months to offer the vaccine to all age groups, the COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t a factor for those who celebrated end-of-year holidays in 2020.
And even those who got the jabs as an early Christmas gift still needed a second dose for the vaccine to become fully effective.
A year later, we’d like to think that we’re in a much better position to gather together and ring in a new year.
After all, about 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID.
Unfortunately, there is still about 40% of the population that hasn’t received at least two doses of Moderna or Pfizer, let alone a booster. In West Virginia, which received national media attention and accolades for its initial vaccine rollout, the percentage of those who are not fully vaccinated is higher, at about 50%.
And while the Delta variant is still swirling around, we’re still waiting to see what the new Omicron variant has in store for us. It's quickly become the dominant variant in the United States. While very infectious, so far, the symptoms seem to be lighter than those of the delta variant.
But one concern is that hospitals will become overwhelmed, and West Virginia is no exception, according to Gov. Jim Justice, who just announced that in the state, health care facilities are "overrun and under staffed."
At Monongalia County Health Department, we realize people are tired of the COVID pandemic and that many want their lives to return to the “normal” they knew before March 2020.
However, once again, those who plan to travel and/or gather with others as the holidays commence would do well to follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to have a happier and healthier celebration.
First, here’s what everyone should be doing, regardless of the time of year:
• Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. You can make an appointment at this link.
• While we’re on the topic, also remember to get a flu vaccine if you haven’t already. West Virginia can have influenza into the spring months, so while MCHD advocates for fall vaccines, we also say it’s never too late.
• Depending on the situation you are in, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others.
• Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
• Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
• Get tested to prevent spread to others.
• Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
And here are safer ways to celebrate the holidays:
• Get tested before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household. A positive test result means that you have an infection and should avoid indoor gatherings to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to someone else. Check out MCHD’s website, monchd.org, or Facebook page for testing times.
• Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
• If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
• If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s travel page at this link to help you decide what is best for you and your family. CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. You also might want to consider not traveling to places where COVID rates are even higher.
• If you do travel and gather with others, get tested when you return home, waiting at least five days since you had initial contact with people not in your household.
We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it. The sooner COVID is under control, the sooner we’ll be able to be more relaxed about traveling and gathering with others and getting back to some kind of normal.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer for Monongalia County Health Department.