Here’s something it doesn’t feel like we’ve been able to say enough the last several months – there’s lots of good news about COVID! The first vaccination has been authorized and should be administered to the first people in Iowa on Monday, the 14th. Second, the number of cases across the state and in Wright County has been declining. There are still plenty of cases and this isn’t the time to back off the things that slowed down the recent surge, but it looks a lot better than it did 2 weeks ago.
One question on many people’s minds is how to celebrate Christmas under the current circumstances. Undoubtedly, the safest thing to do is to avoid gathering in person. People at high-risk of getting severe illness from COVID-19 should strongly consider that option. Everyone has sacrificed a lot this year, however, and I’d like to focus on things that can be done to make gathering safer for those who are going to gather in person. There is no way of completely eliminating transmission of COVID-19 at in person gatherings, but the more of these things that can be done the less risk will be involved. So here are a few suggestions:
- Decrease the size of gatherings. The fewer people physically present, the less likely someone unintentionally brings in COVID. Having some people participate virtually, especially if they are high-risk for severe illness or more likely to be exposed to COVID in their day-to-day, can be a way to decrease risk.
- Have everyone wear masks the entire time. This would generally require having different households avoid eating together. Mealtimes where people are sitting close together without masks and talking are a high-risk time for transmission.
- Spread out. Consider using the largest space available even if it isn’t the place you’d traditionally gather for Christmas. Increasing the distance between people lowers risk of transmission.
- Try to isolate prior to the gathering. At the extreme, if everyone isolates for 14 days prior to gathering, there will be virtually no risk of getting COVID at the gathering. Even a week of isolating prior to gathering can substantially reduce the risk as more than half of people will get symptoms within that time frame if they’ve been exposed unknowingly.
- Get tested before gathering. This isn’t a perfect solution as someone who was infected in the last couple days before testing could test negative and still be infectious by a gathering a day or two later. But it does help. In our area, Test Iowa is free and will test anyone who wants to be tested. Results have been coming back within 48 hours so 2 days before a gathering would be the ideal time to get tested.
- Delay celebrating together until more people have been vaccinated. Over the next couple months, many people will be able to be vaccinated. You’ve heard of Christmas in July? Even Christmas in February will go a long way to decreasing risk if we can get a large number of high-risk people vaccinated by then.
And of course, anyone with any symptoms that could be due to COVID should stay home.