Covid, pandemic

The holidays are quickly approaching once again, and while more of us will be spending time with our friends and families this year, the Covid-19 pandemic is still a concern across the United States. However, there are ways to stay safe and healthy while still gathering for a Thanksgiving meal or holiday get-together.

We asked Intercoastal Medical Group's Dr. Brittany Benjamin to give us some tips on staying healthy.

Get vaccinated if you're eligible.

This will help you protect yourself and those around you not yet eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, such as children under the age of four and those with diseases that prevent them from getting vaccinated.

"Vaccines are safe and effective and are currently the No. 1 way for us to safely gather with our friends and families," says Benjamin. 

Continue to wear fitted masks in public indoor settings, whether you're vaccinated or not. 

Crowded public spaces can still be hubs for viral spread. Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor spaces. And, if possible, choose outdoor settings—it's safer than being inside (and, at this time of the year in Sarasota, who doesn't want to be outdoors?).

Benjamin adds that if you have underlying health conditions, wearing a mask is an additional layer of safety regardless of vaccine status.

Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.

"Thankfully, here in Sarasota we have so many amazing outdoor options to choose from," says Benjamin. If you're eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, find places that have well-ventilated rooms with plenty of space for social distancing. If you're home, keep your windows open to improve ventilation.

Don't attend gatherings if you are feeling sick. 

While this one can be tough after a year of not seeing loved ones, it is best to stay home when you're under the weather. Besides Covid-19, it's also cold and flu season, and Benjamin says this is peak time for other infections, such as flu and RSV, to spread. Whether you've received a negative or positive Covid-19 test, play it safe and avoid getting loved ones sick.

Get a Covid-19 test prior to your gathering, even if it's just a few hours.

"For people that are at high risk of exposure, are going to be around family members or anyone traveling, it's a good idea to get tested," says Benjamin. Some places may even require a negative Covid-19 test prior to entering.

Get a rapid Covid-19 test at a local pharmacy or at one of the Department of Health-Sarasota County locations can help all your guests feel safe before meeting for the holidays.

"We all have different levels of Covid safety concerns," says Benjamin. "The more we can respect each other and keep each other safe, the greater the chance of happy Thanksgivings for years to come."

Check out the CDC's updated holiday gathering guidelines.

 The Centers for Disease Control has updated its holiday guidelines; if  you'd like more guidance, click here.

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