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Savannah doctor discusses COVID safety for the holiday season

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The holidays are right around the corner and with that comes an opportunity for families and friends to gather and celebrate.

Dr. Stephen Thacker, the Associate Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Health says because of this downward trend we’re seeing in cases and because of the vaccine, people feel more comfortable keeping their plans this year.

“There’s so many in our community now that are protected by vaccination or protected by prior infection that I really don’t think we’ll see a huge surge,” Dr. Thacker said.

He said we’re likely to see an increase in positive cases after the holidays, but not enough to put our hospitals and communities at risk. He says as people make their holiday plans, however, there are some things they can do to stay safe.

“The biggest strategy is making sure that everyone who can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine has and then if you’re due for a booster go ahead and make that decision now,” Dr. Thacker said.

As we know, the booster shots are not available yet for everyone. So, here’s what Dr. Thacker says you can think about doing if you’re due for one, but not eligible.

“Think about masking. Especially if you have folks coming in from other regions that might have more COVID in their community. Thinking about how can you create gatherings that are more outside if they can be? Or if they’re inside, how can you increase the airflow,” Dr. Thacker said.

Like so many of us, John Batten made the very hard decision to cancel his holiday plans last year. He says the vaccine made his decision this year much easier.

“It has eased my mind and caused me to make a decision to travel when last year I wouldn’t do it,” Batten said.

This is also the case for Yolanda Rodriguez who says the vaccine is why her family is choosing to get together this year.

“Definitely the vaccine. The vaccine helped a lot. Still, there’s a risk, but I feel like that’s what pushed it a little bit where we’re not so scared like we were last year,” Rodriquez said.

Of course, Dr. Thacker recommends that people get their initial vaccine, if they haven’t already, before gathering for the holidays.

As always, he reminds people that some of the best strategies to stay safe are washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.

According to the CDC, individuals who received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at six months or more after their initial series:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings

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