Editor’s Note: The Iredell County Health Department provided the following guidance for the holiday season.

Special to Iredell Free News

Any scenario in which many people gather together in close proximity to one another poses a risk for illness, including flu or COVID-19 transmission.

While the holidays are a time when families and others gather together, there continues to be an increase in the weekly number of COVID-19 cases in our community. So far, Iredell County has experienced 29,972 total cases and 331 deaths as a result of COVID-19.

Iredell is currently categorized as an area with high transmission by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) with 9.4 percent of the COVID-19 tests performed over the past week resulting as positive.

There are several ways you can still enjoy holiday traditions and protect your health. Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays together, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated.

Below are safer ways to celebrate the holidays:

• Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and eligible people vaccinated.
• Wash hands often, especially before eating or serving food.
• Clean frequently touched areas like doorknobs and light switches.
• Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings. The CDC recommends that even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities, like Iredell County, that have a substantial to high level of community transmission
• Host gatherings outdoors, when possible. If gathering indoors, use a space that is large enough to allow for physical distancing and consider limiting the number of attendees. If possible, increase circulation of outdoor air by opening windows and doors.
• If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
• Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. The CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

To protect yourself and others:

• If you do travel and are NOT fully vaccinated, get tested 1-3 days before and 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if you test negative at 3-5 days.
• All individuals regardless of vaccination status should follow the CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations.

Individuals who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider. You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.

If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you could consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel or being tested) in advance of gathering to further reduce risks.

By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends.

The CDC recommends that all adults and children age 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine.

To make an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccine, please call 704-878-5300 and press 4.

If you have any questions, please call the Iredell County Health Department COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 704-878-5300 and then press 1.

Iredell County Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Information: https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/1455/Vaccine-Information

Additional information related to COVID-19 can be found at the following links:

♦ Specifics on the COVID-19 vaccine: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines
♦ NCDHHS-DPH: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/
♦ CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

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