Holiday Season 2021 Safety for Seniors

In December 2020, we shared the latest advice for seniors who wanted to spend the holidays with their families during the coronavirus pandemic. The FDA had just given Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the United States, but the rollout to vaccinate seniors, caregivers, and healthcare workers hadn’t started. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was advising everyone to stay home in November and December 2020 with only our immediate households as the winter surge was in full force. As we approach the holiday season in 2021, health officials are offering slightly less stringent guidelines for celebrating the holidays safely. How should seniors, their families and their caregivers in San Diego celebrate as we brace for another winter coronavirus surge?

Many seniors in San Diego homecare and their families assumed last year that if we sacrificed one holiday season, we could enjoy all following holidays free from the threat of coronavirus. While the U.S. has fully vaccinated just under 60 percent of the population in the last 11 months, initial vaccination rates have slowed dramatically. Since late September 2021, some of the fully vaccinated began seeking a booster dose to supplement their falling antibody levels and bolster their response to Delta and other variants. The immunocompromised, people over 65 and frontline and healthcare workers are at the front of that line. This means that an extended family group this holiday season may include at-risk and low-risk members who are vaccinated, unvaccinated, and boostered. This is an unpredictable mix-and-match scenario that can make a holiday gathering dangerous to at-risk loved ones.

What is the safest way to celebrate the holidays in November and December 2021? The State of California suggests following these guidelines:

  • Get vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect others.
  • Keep gatherings small
  • If everyone at an indoor gathering is fully vaccinated, masks are optional
  • If your guests are unvaccinated or you don’t know their status, plan gatherings that are small, short, and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth:
    • When social distancing is not possible
    • When you might be around unvaccinated people, especially indoors
    • When around older individuals or people with medical conditions
  • When gathering inside, ventilate well. Open doors and windows, run HVAC systems, and install high-quality air filters.
  • Check local conditions. Your county may have stricter guidance than the state. Take extra precautions when local levels of virus transmission are high.
  • Activate CA Notify and ask your guests to do the same. CA Notify anonymously notifies individuals of a possible exposure.
  • Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • Stay home if you are sick”

The CDC offers additional guidance for those who are traveling over the holidays. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts “53.4 million people [will] travel [by plane and car] for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020.” These travelers will be exposed to a lot of germs on the way to Thanksgiving, potentially bringing Covid-19 as well as the flu and cold along with them. Masks, distancing, and hand washing are the best ways to fend off all kinds of viruses. It’s disheartening to realize that observing safety protocols and taking precautions are still necessary for another holiday season. It’s still possible to enjoy time with family and friends, however, if everyone takes care to protect those around them.