El Dorado County Public Health wishes to remind residents and visitors how to stay safe and healthy over the holidays.
“The change in season and upcoming holidays prompt gatherings and behaviors that increase many health and safety risks,” said El Dorado County Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams. “Taking simple preventive measures can reduce the chances of the holidays being ruined by things like improperly cooked turkeys, drunk driving or respiratory infections and can also ensure everyone stays safe.”
Williams recommends the following basic health and safety tips for the holidays:
- Understand and practice safe food preparation (to avoid gastrointestinal infections),
- Assign a designated driver before consuming alcohol away from home (or use public transportation or a ride-hailing service),
- Wash hands frequently (to avoid infections like norovirus),
- Be aware of dangers and exercise care with regard to children’s toys, cooking, Christmas trees, hanging outdoor lights, etc.,
- Keep current on vaccinations (to avoid illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, influenza, some pneumonias and COVID-19)
- Stay away from other people when ill (to keep them safe).
According to Williams, COVID-19 remains the biggest worry for many people this holiday season and for good reason.
“COVID is still the biggest infectious disease threat in El Dorado County. Different virus variants have emerged over time. The current predominant variant (‘Delta’) is more than twice as contagious as earlier variants. It may also result in more severe illness,” said Williams. “Even though many people have been vaccinated against COVID, or have been infected with it or both, the Delta variant poses some threat to everyone and especially to the elderly and people with health conditions that put them at greater risk.
“For those who were vaccinated in early 2021, we know immunity can wane over time and booster doses are now recommended,” she continued. “In addition, many people in El Dorado County and elsewhere still remain unvaccinated.”
In addition to risks directly associated with the virus, other factors increase the risk of acquiring a COVID-19 infection. “The change in weather and fewer hours of sunshine encourage people to be indoors,” said Williams. “The holidays also encourage people to travel and to gather indoors with others. The urge to spend time with friends and loved ones makes it hard to say no to gatherings even when doing so could potentially put others at risk.”
People who gather with family or friends from outside their own households can take measures to keep everyone safe, even those (such as grandparents) who may be more vulnerable to COVID, said Williams. The following tips are recommended, even for those who have some immunity (from vaccination or from being previously infected), but especially for those who do not:
- Try to avoid possible exposures to COVID during the two weeks (and especially during the last week) immediately before your holiday gatherings, such as indoor events or spending time in close proximity to others while not wearing face coverings
- Wear face coverings when you must be in indoor public spaces with other people during that timeframe
- Get vaccinated or a booster dose (if eligible) as far in advance of the gathering as possible. Vaccinations start to work immediately, so it’s still worthwhile to get them even if reaching fully vaccinated status won’t happen until after your gatherings
- Consider getting tested before you gather with people — antigen testing (within 24 hours before the gathering) or PCR testing (within 72 hours before the gathering)
- Always keep away from others if you’ve tested positive for COVID (or flu or any other infectious illness), have symptoms or have been told to quarantine
- Make contingency plans in advance of events so that it’s easier to say no if necessary
- Encourage friends and family members to follow these guidelines
For more information read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s or the California Department of Public Health’s tips for safe holiday gatherings.
For COVID-19 and flu vaccination information visit myturn.ca.gov.