Holiday gatherings: CDC guidance sheds light on how to celebrate safely amid COVID-19

‘Tis the season to celebrate with friends and family, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s also important to celebrate safely. 

The agency says there are several ways to enjoy holiday traditions while also protecting your health and the health of those around you. 


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"By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends," the CDC wrote in its guidance.

Get vaccinated against COVID-19

The CDC says the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your friends and family safer is to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

By getting a vaccine, the CDC says recipients will better protect those not yet eligible for vaccination, such as young children under the age of 5 years old. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said that families who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should "feel good" about gathering for the holidays this year

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"If you get vaccinated and your family's vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends," he said, adding: "when you're with your family at home, goodness, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents. There's no reason not to do that."

And if you’re already fully vaccinated and are eligible for a booster dose, experts advise getting it ahead of what could turn out to be a winter surge in cases.

Fauci said earlier this week COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be needed to avoid a possible "double whammy" of the highly transmissible coronavirus delta variant and waning immunity this winter — possibly putting even vaccinated people at risk.

"The somewhat unnerving aspect of it is that if you keep the level of dynamics of the virus in the community at a high level — obviously the people who are most, most vulnerable are the unvaccinated — but when you have a virus as transmissible as delta, in the context of waning immunity, that dynamic is going to negatively impact even the vaccinated people. So it's a double whammy," Fauci said in a pretaped interview aired at the 2021 STAT Summit on Nov. 16.

His comments came as COVID-19 cases are rising across the country after a downward trend over the summer months.

Fauci said that a third COVID-19 vaccine shot may no longer be a "luxury," but part of the required vaccination process. "I happen to believe... that a third shot boost for an mRNA is likely should be part of the actual standard regimen," he said.

Gathering indoors for festivities

While the outdoors is safer than indoors when it comes to transmitting the COVID-19 virus, many holiday gatherings take place inside during the colder months. 

The CDC suggests wearing well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings and not fully vaccinated. 

RELATED: Fauci says COVID-19 vaccine boosters will help avoid winter ‘double whammy’

Even those who are fully vaccinated are asked to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial to high transmission. Learn about community transmission levels in your county here.

The agency says you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.

In addition, the CDC recommends avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, if possible. 

Tips for traveling during holidays

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit the CDC’s travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. The CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people, but keep in mind that many countries may bar unvaccinated travelers from entry. If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.

Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation in the U.S. 

If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t travel, host or attend a gathering, and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.