Another year has come and gone, and while COVID-19 is still with us, this year brings gratitude for one of the best ways to protect against the disease – vaccinations. While safety measures are still encouraged, family gatherings are a bit safer this year due to the safety and efficacy of the vaccines rolled out late last year. COVID vaccines are now available for people who are at least five years old and offer important protection for families, friends, and communities as they gather for the holiday season.
Wellstar Health System has provided the healthy and helpful tips below to help families safely enjoy the winter holidays and give T.H.A.N.K.S. again:
T - TAKE STEPS EARLY: Preventing the spread of COVID during the holidays is more than just wearing a mask, watching your distance, and washing your hands. It’s about caring for those you love by taking steps to be sure you keep everyone safe. The best way to do that is to get vaccinated.
- Vaccine clinics across Georgia have online sign-up pages with location details to make vaccination scheduling easy. The Georgia Department of Public Health is an excellent resource.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides information on COVID-19 vaccinations and how to find and schedule an appointment in your area.
- Plan for enhanced safety measures: Have extra masks, host your events outdoors in large spaces for social distancing, and have plenty of hand sanitizer available.
H - HAVE FAMILY PLANS: No matter how you celebrate the winter holidays, COVID can easily throw a wrench into any occasion. Having a family plan to prevent catching or spreading the disease can keep unneeded worry out of holiday gatherings.
- Schedule vaccinations ahead of time, especially for young children and teens, as the approval for younger people has only just begun, and appointments could be limited in your area.
- If you have family members who cannot receive the vaccine, plan for them to attend your gathering virtually so they aren’t excluded.
- Remember that full vaccination for the highest level of protection is two weeks after the second dose, or if you had your vaccine more than eight months ago, two weeks after your booster shot.
- Getting tested before you gather can add to safety measures, but testing is no replacement for getting vaccinated. If you take a test and the results come back positive, ask your care provider about treatment and avoid gatherings until after you quarantine.
A – AWARENESS: Stay aware of the latest COVID-19 news and information by checking updates from credible sources such as the CDC and local public health departments.
- The CDC provides key data for monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation.
- Worldwide facts can help keep you and your family updated on the state of the pandemic, as well as what destinations have travel restrictions or may not be ready for visitors yet.
N - NEW TREATMENTS ARE HERE: The holidays are a time to gather with loved ones and give thanks. Many new medical advances have been approved that help treat COVID and limit the severity of the disease. That is reason to be thankful!
- COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to drastically reduce the effects of the virus by preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Be sure to contact your physician about the need for a booster shot and how other treatments can help if you have been diagnosed with COVID.
K - KEEP CALM AND BE KIND: The past two years have been challenging, and many are finding new ways to cope with unexpected loss. Please be considerate and kind and try to remain calm when faced with anxieties about the pandemic.
- Understand that some family members may not participate in large gatherings. We are still in the middle of the pandemic, and while things are getting better, we aren’t out of the woods yet. If you have family still worried, discuss steps that will make them feel safer, such as mask-wearing and other methods to reduce the spread of COVID.
- Talk with family and friends to acknowledge stress and anxiety. Being open about mental health stressors is the best way to reduce stigma and support each other. You can also create stress-reducing family activities such as group yoga, long walks, or bike riding to help exercise away worries.
- Focus on creating new family traditions that make enhanced safety part of the holiday experience, such as creating pumpkin spice hand sanitizer or decorating face masks for family events.
S -SUPPORT OTHERS: Support those interested in learning more about COVID vaccines by sharing information from credible sources such as the CDC. The spread of misinformation can negatively affect COVID-19 vaccine confidence and because we know how truly effective the vaccines have been in our communities, let’s all work together to focus on the facts from healthcare experts.
- The CDC has put together a toolkit to help communicate accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and address misinformation that could be harmful to others.
Wellstar is committed to providing world-class healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more information and tips on how to prevent COVID.