MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (11/16/2021) — With the holiday season upon us, people are navigating how to approach this holiday season with family and friends. Winter is known to have an increase in flu and cold viruses cases that can put a damper on holiday activities. Additionally, COVID-19 vaccination for kids ages 5-11 was recently approved which can impact plans. 

University of Minnesota Medical School expert Jill Foster discusses how to stay healthy and safe when celebrating the holidays this year. 

31 seconds — What should people do to prepare to stay healthy this holiday season?
Dr. Foster
: Yes, COVID-19 is still upon us, but that does not mean we can’t enjoy the holiday season. Just like we prepare for going outside in winter weather, we need to prepare and still use a multi-layer approach. The first is of course vaccines for anyone who is eligible and for those who need boosters, make sure they’re updated. And — just like you wouldn’t go out into a blizzard without a hat and gloves — use a face covering. Finally, take the “COVID temperature” of where you’re going and be aware of where you are and who is around you — and how close you get to them.

 38 seconds— What are some steps that can be taken to create a safer environment while gathering with friends and family?
Dr. Foster
: When gathering, being aware means avoiding the highest risk situations as much as possible. On a scale of most safe is: outdoors and being only with vaccinated people — beyond that use face coverings as much as possible when not in the safest places. Additionally, try to keep the crowd size down, especially indoors. Make it okay with the people you are gathering with to ask about vaccine status and make arrangements accordingly. Ask those who aren’t feeling well to please stay home. If something unanticipated happens, get tested.

33 seconds — What should people consider when thinking about taking a personal vacation for the holidays that doesn’t involve visiting loved ones?
Dr. Foster
: Travel is the trickiest because it has the most unknowns and fewest things you can control. It sounds dire, but look at where you are going and imagine that if you get sick while you’re there whether or not you would feel comfortable getting your healthcare there. Maximize your protections while traveling to and from. For example, double masking on planes and trains and in airports. Minimize your interactions outside your immediate group. Remember to check on COVID-19 requirements for travel to that place and to get back into the country if you leave the U.S. and be prepared. 

Jill Foster, MD, is a pediatric infectious diseases physician with the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview. Her expertise is in prevention and treatment of viral diseases, and in mobilizing public health and healthcare systems in the areas of prevention and screening. 

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