IDPH reminds Illinoisans to keep COVID in mind when planning holiday gatherings

(The Center Square) – The most likely place to catch COVID? In your own home or visiting another person’s home – even if people are vaccinated, state officials said.

“Last year, many people held off getting together with family and friends during the holiday season due to the pandemic,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “This year, we have a safe and effective vaccine to help protect against severe illness due to COVID-19 that will allow friends and families to more safely celebrate together. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your friends and family, and your community, but there are other actions you can take to celebrate more safely.”

Keep COVID-19 precautions in mind when planning gatherings this holiday season, said Melaney Arnold, director of communications for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The delta variant of COVID-19 is continuing to cause high COVI-19 case numbers. Vaccination and boosters are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from the COVID-19 virus. However, vaccinations are not able to stop all transmission of the coronavirus. Fully vaccinated people with no symptoms can still spread the virus – even though they may not get ill themselves.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends a layered approach when it comes to COVID-19 prevention, Arnold said. In addition to getting vaccinated, people need to consider wearing masks indoors on occasion, maintaining social distancing, getting tested, and staying home if they have a fever or a cough or other COVID-19 symptoms.

A fully vaccinated person clears the COVID infection quickly and may never show signs of infection, but they can still spread the virus. Unvaccinated people should not assume that they are safe from COVID because the majority of people at a gathering have been vaccinated.

People with compromised immune systems or people taking medications that lower their immune response can be at risk for a life-threatening case of COVID 19 – even if they are vaccinated. Masks and social distancing can protect them.

Guests who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or people who work in high-risk settings should consider getting tested for COVID a day or two before attending a crowded holiday event.

The Illinois Department of Public Health encourages people to plan smaller holiday gatherings this year. Instead of having one big party, consider having smaller parties – so that guests can maintain safe distances from each other, the department advised.

Have a pile of masks in a prominent spot where guests can help themselves.

Think about ventilation.

“If you are going to have a lot of people at your house, try and open some doors and windows – weather permitting – to increase the air circulation,” Arnold said.

Even if it is cold outside, cracking some windows and leaving the back door ajar can decrease the amount of virus in the air, Arnold said.

At parties, people like to gather in the kitchen and around the buffet. Think about asking people to bring dishes that are already cooked rather than having a lot of people in the kitchen at one time, Arnold said.

Stagger the buffet line so that people are less likely to congregate.

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