Doctors offer advice for people holding gatherings on Thanksgiving as COVID-19 continues

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 6:35 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Unlike last year this Thanksgiving millions of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 including some children ages 5 and up. So how safe is it for vaccinated people to get together this Thursday?

Dr. Julio Figueroa is LSU Health’s chief of infectious diseases. “The fact that everybody is vaccinated reduces your risk pretty dramatically; the issue is when you have other individuals that are there, that may not be vaccinated or that are at higher risk for having problems,” said Figueroa. “So, when you have grandma and grandpa, or great aunt and great uncle, even if they’re vaccinated, they may still have a higher risk of breakthrough infections.”

And many kids are not yet vaccinated against the virus.

Dr. Denise Kerut is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

“The best advice I can give for the kids who are not completely vaccinated yet, especially the little kids who aren’t even able to get vaccinated yet is to be as vigilant as you can about handwashing and if their adults who aren’t vaccinated it would be best for them to wear masks and if the children can wear masks that would be helpful, too,” said Kerut.

She says parents need not forgo gatherings entirely if they follow those steps.

“Correct, yes, and if you can meet outside, if the weather is going to be nice that is helpful as well as opposed to eating indoors. There’s a lot more transmission of virus,” said Kerut.

Dr. Figueroa reminds parents that the timing of their kids’ vaccination is important when making decisions about risks.

“The definition of full vaccination or fully protected is two weeks after completing the series,” said Figueroa.

And he thinks this Thanksgiving will be a test of sorts of having millions vaccinated.

“It certainly going to be a stress test I think, I mean, because a lot of folks are going to be under the same roof,” said Figueroa.

And both doctors urge the unvaccinated to get the shots.

“When we have a vaccine that works and prevents the virus it’s so incredibly sad for us as pediatricians to see children die from something that can be prevented,” said Kerut.

Figueroa said, “Get vaccinated, those people who are still waiting for doing that; now that the FDA has approved and CDC has approved for boosting for those that would like to do that, I think that, that’s an important strategy as well to try to keep immunity high in the community and then to try to always assess the risk of any particular situation, so that we don’t have a lot of transmission going on.”

And he said it is good idea to get tested before attending a holiday gathering.

“For those individuals who are at high risk and especially those that are not vaccinated, to get tested prior to coming to that event, so maybe test that same day, do one of the over-the-counter testing, the antigen test, rapid test,” said Figueroa.

Doctors say no one should let their guard down because the pandemic has not ended.

“Correct, it is definitely still among us, and I recommend if you feel comfortable wearing your mask even if you are vaccinated, I’m fully vaccinated and have had a booster and I still wear my mask a lot of times when I’m out in public,” said Kerut.

Figueroa agrees.

“COVID is not gone from the United States, in fact it’s increasing, in our particular neck of the woods it’s down but we could be there very through the holidays, if we’re not careful,” he said.

On Monday, members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team urged adults to get booster shots as the holiday season is already underway.

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