*OMICRON UPDATE TO OUR PREVIOUS POST*
You know who they are. They won’t be quiet. You can’t ignore them. Taking the hint that they’ve overstayed their welcome isn’t in their nature. We’re talking about the “smartest person in the room”. Think of this virus as THAT person. No matter what we do, it finds a way to dominate the conversation, the room–even our holiday season.
All we can do is control our response.
All of our previous tips for safe celebrating stand. Unfortunately, what has changed are the potential risks posed by the new omicron variant. Some things to keep in mind:
- The medical community is warning of a possible “triple whammy”–a new variant coexisting with the delta variant and the threat of a severe flu season
- Early signs indicate that the new virus is even more transmissible–a new study out of South Africa shows existing vaccines are significantly less effective at fighting off infections
- New omicron cases have been reported across 36 states from Alaska to Florida and California to New York
- Between Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, the variant is the suspected cause of a sharp rise in new infections from 0.4% to 2.9%
- For maximum protection against the virus, get your booster shot if you haven’t already
The good news is that vaccinated people are still protected against severe symptoms that require hospitalization.
The bad news is that millions remain un- or partially vaccinated, and the death toll is predicted to rise from 800,473 to as high as 845,000 by January 8th.
Good food, good times and safe loved ones
Those are the things that top all of our holiday wish lists. Here’s our list of do’s and don’ts for your get-togethers.
Flu & COVID-19 prevention tips
Make sure the viruses aren’t on your guest list.
Pre-party like a pro
- Get tested before the holidays. There are a lot of options–antigen test, rapid test, PCR test, RT-PCR test, antibody test, take-home self-test–and they’re available in lots of places, including some airports and hotels. Your surest bets are your local pharmacy, health clinic or doctor. You’ll want to do some research, of course, and booking an appointment will help you avoid wait times. (We recommend, sell and administer BinaxNOW COVID-19 self-tests and PCR tests.)
- Vaccinate–for both viruses. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are still your best way to prevent or lessen the severity of either virus. And you can get both vaccinations safely at the same time, according to the CDC, FDA and the WHO. Many pharmacies and medical professionals offer walk-in service and/or take appointments.
- Boost your immune response. The new omicron variant is better at outsmarting the immunity provided by current vaccinations. Getting the booster shot is highly recommended to improve our body’s ability to fight it off.
- Avoid high-risk activities 14 days prior. If at all possible, avoid going out in public leading up to your holiday celebration, whether you’re hosting or on the guest list. If you do go out, mask-up, wash-up and keep your distance.
- Consider being selective about your guest list. Holidays are about including everyone–even crazy uncle Harry. But some of your guests could be at greater risk of carrying the viruses. Those include college students and visitors from areas with high rates of infection. It’s your call.
- Are we there yet? Air travel is no time to let your guard down. You’re almost there. Keep those masks on, wash/sanitize those hands and keep your distance as much as possible.
Get it together for your get-together.
- Wash ‘em often. Hands are little contagion spreaders if not washed or sanitized frequently. Soap and water for 20 seconds or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are your go-tos. While you’re at it, give those household surfaces a periodic wipe-down with a good disinfectant cleaner.
- Masks are still on the menu. And so is social distancing. Both are recommended if you are celebrating with anyone from outside your household.
- Don’t go if you’ve been exposed. Exposure can happen at any time prior to attending gathering. If you’re aware that you have been near anyone who has tested positive within 14 days of your celebration, stay home.
- Don’t host if you’ve been exposed. If your celebration includes guests from outside your household and you’ve been exposed within 14 days prior to your party, it’s time to cancel.
Tips to keep the Grinch away
- “Real” Christmas trees are basically kindling. Even if you keep yours watered. Look around your tree for hazards, including candles, electric space heaters, or fireplaces and keep them at least 3 feet away.
- Candles are a burning issue. Between 2013 and 2017 an average of 22 home fires started by candles were reported EVERY DAY. The top two days? Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Keep them away from mattresses, drapes/curtains, Christmas trees and other flammables.
- Keep the home fires burning–safely. If you have a fireplace, there’s nothing better than a cozy fire during the holidays. Keep yours from getting out of hand by not burning wrapping paper, wreathes or trees and always use your fireplace screen.
- Plants can poison your pets. Mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis are all toxic to pets (and little ones).
- Lighten up the electric load. The typical house’s circuit can handle 70 strings of 50-bulb mini lights or between 300 to 600 strings of 50-bulb LED lights. But don’t forget all your other appliances already plugged into those circuits. Spread those decorations across multiple circuits to prevent overloading them.
Additional non-virus tips
Whew! Now that we’ve covered virus precautions, here are some general safety tips for your celebration.
- Take care of yourself. Hosting, travelling, or even deciding what to wear (looking at you Aunt Kathy) can stress anyone out. For many of us, this ain’t our first rodeo. Be aware of your stress triggers and give yourself time, practice patience and take a moment to catch your breath.
- Don’t drink and drive. Imbibe if you like, but DO NOT DRIVE. And stop any tipsy guests from driving, too.
- Don’t forget to buckle up. You’ve got a lot on your mind. Keep those seat belts in mind, too. Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip–or how full you are from all those fixin’s!
- Keep an eye on the kids. It’s easy to take your eyes off ‘em during all the holiday hullabaloo. Kid-proof your place by locking up dangerous toys, choking hazards, adult beverages, etc. We also recommend a sprinkling in a fair amount of “cool your jets” or “simmer downs” when necessary.
- Don’t get burned. Winter months see more house fires than any other time of year. Keep an eye on the main culprits: fireplaces, space heaters, food on the stove, or candles. Oh, and *pro tip* DON’T FORGET THE BUNS.
- Food safety. Remember the basics: wash hands, clean surfaces, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods at recommended temperatures for recommended times, and refrigerate foods ASAP.
When it comes to helping you stay safe and healthy, we could go on and on. This list is a good start, but by no means a guarantee against illnesses or accidents. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t take unnecessary risks, and we’ll see you all again soon.
Happy holidays from all of us to all of you!