With falling leaves and falling temperatures, one thing on the rise in November is holiday spirit. This month marks the official start of the holiday season. Plans to celebrate with friends and family are taking shape. Last year, making those plans was much more complicated as we did not yet have a vaccine for COVID-19. Holiday traditions took on a new spin with video calls to family and friends, and outdoor activities replacing the usual celebrations.
With the arrival of vaccines last spring, there was what felt like a reprieve in the strictness of COVID-19 safety guidelines. The delta strain has made an impact in Minnesota. As a result, Bloomington saw a climb in case numbers this fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attending gatherings to celebrate events and holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. The CDC recently released updated 2021 guidelines for celebrating holidays safely. In general, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated and wearing a mask indoors in public. In areas of substantial or high transmission, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings as well as if you are in close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
If you have a health condition or take medications that weaken your immune system, you may not be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitting mask, until advised otherwise by your health care provider. If you are eligible for an additional dose, get it now, to be better protected.
The safest way to celebrate is still virtually, or to celebrate outdoors and be at least six feet apart from others. An activity, such as walking or hiking, can be an opportunity to get out and enjoy Bloomington parks while social distancing. If gathering indoors, consider opening windows and doors when weather conditions allow, to increase outdoor air flow. Even a slightly open window can bring in beneficial outdoor air. It also helps to turn your HVAC fan setting to the “on” position for a couple of hours before, during and then again after the event to bring in fresh air. The CDC also recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, are required to wear a mask when using public transportation. Read the full list of CDC guidelines at blm.mn/cdcholiday.
The availability of COVID-19 vaccines has really changed our COVID-19 response strategies and resulted in reduced risk for many people. As I write this, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Pfizer’s request to authorize its vaccine for children ages 5 - 11. We have reason to be hopeful that things will keep getting better. We will get through this—stay healthy, be well.