‘Plan ahead for safer celebrations’: UNC doctors give insight as 2nd pandemic holiday season approaches

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – As we head into our second holiday season in the midst of a pandemic, CBS 17 asked doctors their advice for safer holiday celebrations.

It’s only October, but people are already planning for the holidays. Darryl Byrd is looking forward to seeing his family in California,  especially after the pandemic shut down last year’s celebration. “We didn’t do anything last year,” he recalled. “We pretty much stayed home.”

Doctors say, while we’re still in a pandemic, this year is different than last, at least in one respect – vaccines. “We can have the vaccination conversation,” explained UNC family physician, Doctor Erica Pettigrew. “Last year vaccines were not available largely in the fall and early wintertime. This is the time to start talking to your family, ‘Hey who’s vaccinated; who’s not vaccinated?'”

“If a loved one is unvaccinated,” she continued, “It is safer for them to participate virtually.”

If you’re already vaccinated, you can check whether you’re eligible for a booster.

If you’re already vaccinated, you can check whether you’re eligible for a booster.

“This is a great time to get a booster especially if you know you’re going to do some traveling,” noted UNC infectious disease specialist, Doctor David Wohl. He added that the boosters take a couple of weeks to fully take effect, so don’t wait until right before you’re scheduled to leave on a trip.  

Even if you’re vaccinated, doctors say it’s still important to take precautions if you decide to gather with family and friends. 

“If you can eat outdoors that’s better; if you can eat in a well-ventilated room, if you can’t be outdoors, that’s better; if you can be spaced out, that’s better,” said Pettigrew. “Any and all of the combinations of those strategies really are the ways to mitigate your risk.”

Byrd said he’s happy to take precautions if it means getting to spend time with his family. “We’re definitely vaccinated and will be following all mask mandates,” he noted. “Do what we have to do in order to be safe.”

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