CDC on Friday released updated official guidance to help Americans safely celebrate the holidays this year, guidance which again emphasized the importance of vaccination against Covid-19 for all eligible individuals.
CDC's updated holiday guidance
Citing the updated recommendations, a CDC spokesperson said the agency "fully expect[s] that families and friends will gather for the holidays this year and we have updated our guidance on how to best to stay safe over the holidays." The spokesperson added, "The best way to minimize Covid-19 risk and ensure that people can safely gather is to get vaccinated or get the booster, if you're eligible."
According to Becker's Hospital Review, the agency included seven additional recommendations for the coming holiday season:
- Individuals who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks in indoor public settings.
- All individuals should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas with "substantial to high Covid-19 transmission," regardless of vaccination status.
- Outdoor gatherings are typically safer than indoor gatherings—and individuals should generally avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
- Anyone who is sick or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should not attend or host a gathering.
- Individuals who have a condition or take medication that weakens the immune system should wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
- If attending a gathering with people from different areas of the country, individuals should take extra precautions, such as avoiding crowded spaces before travel and getting tested in advance.
- Children younger than two should not wear masks. The best way to protect young children is to ensure that all eligible guests have been fully vaccinated.
'There's no reason at all why you can't enjoy the holidays in a family way'
After CDC released the updated guidance, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that when the level of Covid-19 transmission is down, fueled by increased vaccination rates, "there's no reason at all why you can't enjoy the holidays in a family way." According to CDC data, 77.1% of Americans ages 12 and older are at least partially vaccinated—and 66.7% are fully vaccinated.
"I believe strongly that, particularly in the vaccinated people, if you're vaccinated and your family members are vaccinated, those who are eligible—that is obviously very young children are not yet eligible—that you can enjoy the holidays. You can enjoy Halloween, trick-or-treating and certainly Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with your family," Fauci said on Sunday during ABC's "This Week."
Separately, Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said, "[T]he delta surge of the summer has clearly turned a corner," citing declining infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, specifically in the South. According to data President Joe Biden shared last week, in the last six weeks, hospitalizations declined by 38% and Covid-19 infections declined by 47%.
However, Jha issued a warning, saying that "there are pockets of concern [for Covid-19]. Certainly in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. … In North Dakota, Montana, large parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, you're seeing infection numbers still rising, and I'm worried."
Nonetheless, given the overall rates of vaccination and decline in Covid-19 cases, Jha believes that even trick-or-treating should be safe this year. He said, "Halloween may not be 100% normal, but let's say, very, very, very close to normal." (Carbajal, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/15; Franklin, NPR, 10/15; Breslin, The Hill, 10/15; Vakil, The Hill, 10/17; Miller, Providence Journal, 10/12)