How to Stay Safe for the Holidays
Omicron just threw a major wrench in our plans. But here are the ways to lower your risk of getting sick.
Welcome to Not a Doctor, the only newsletter about health and science wondering if there’s still time to hang up Christmas lights outside?
I’m Melody Schreiber, a journalist and the editor of What We Didn’t Expect: Personal Stories About Premature Birth. I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, or really an expert of any kind. I just like to ask questions and try to find the answers to them.
Happy holidays, all. I know many of us were hoping for a more typical holiday season, nearly two years into this coronavirus outbreak. If you’re like me, you’re scrambling to figure out how, exactly, this changes your plans.
I talked to some of my most trusted experts for an article I wrote for the Guardian. I hope you read the entire article, but here’s the gist of it:
Plan around the most vulnerable person in the room.
That might be someone who is older or immune-compromised, or it could be a child too young to get the shot. That person is your barometer for how many precautions to take.
Take those precautions!
Get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible — even partial protection will help in the next few days. Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask. Test as frequently as you can. Ventilate the space, and make the gathering as small as possible.
Limit travel, and quarantine if possible.
If you can, drive instead of flying. If you have time, quarantine after traveling but before seeing anyone.
Prioritize what’s important for you.
I don’t care as much about eating dinner around the table, but I do want to gather around the Christmas tree to unwrap presents. So that means we might skip dinner or eat outside, while we wear masks around the tree.
Don’t be afraid to say no, or to reschedule.
Some people are canceling plans entirely, because it’s just too risky. You can always celebrate another time, when things are a bit safer.
“Don’t feel ashamed or uncomfortable setting firm boundaries about what you’re comfortable with and what risks you will tolerate,” Dr. Angela Rasmussen told me.
Practice deep understanding and empathy for those who are making different decisions.
I wrote an article for The New Republic recently about the many shades of gray around acceptable Covid risks.
Because each individual has a different way of weighing benefits and risks, many of us are arriving at different conclusions—putting us on a collision course with loved ones and friends.
Having different priorities and risk assessments doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to disagree, though. Make this is an opportunity to understand each other a little bit better, and help each other feel as safe and cherished as possible.
It’s the least we can do this holiday season.
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I hope you all stay safe out there, and that your holidays are restful and joyous.