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How to Share the Spirit and Not COVID-19 this Holiday Season

Following the Thanksgiving holiday, a record number of COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States, and the number of deaths related to the disease has increased to an average of approximately 30 per day in Nebraska.

As we approach Christmas and the New Year, which typically bring large gatherings, it’s a crucial time to limit spread of the virus, according to Dr. Maureen Tierney, chair of the Department of Clinical Research and assistant dean for Clinical Research and Public Health at the Creighton University School of Medicine. “Although vaccination efforts in the United States are in sight, it isn’t a time to put our guard down,” Tierney said. “We have to be vigilant over the next few weeks to avoid another surge of cases putting our hospital capacity at risk.”

Tierney provided the following guidelines to celebrate the holidays safely:

- Wear the mask inside, even if you can socially distance as the virus can aerosolize.

- Maintain at least six feet of distance. Loud talking, cheering, singing, laughing and especially coughing can cause spread of virus particles up to 12 feet or even farther.

- Improve ventilation when possible through opening windows and increasing air filtration.

- Quarantine if you have been exposed. The 14-day quarantine is still the safest recommendation. The new seven- and 10-day recommendations were made by the CDC with the intention of creating more compliance, however, up to 12% of individuals following a shorter quarantine might still be infectious.

- If someone in your home has been exposed and is quarantining, consider having everyone in the house wear a mask when in common spaces. This has been shown to decrease household transmission by close to 80%.

- If someone is coming home for Christmas, consider having them tested and following the guidelines on quarantine outlined above.

- Stay home and avoid travel as much as possible over the holidays.

- Limit gatherings to those in your household.

- Do lots of virtual get togethers.

Lukas Partners helped Tierney communicate these messages through the news media. She added that the virus has had a huge impact on food banks and local businesses. She recommends making a donation to a food bank or supporting local businesses by purchasing takeout, buying gift cards, and participating in call-ahead shopping and curbside pickup.

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