Public health officials are urging residents to celebrate the holidays safely as COVID-19 case rates rise in Marin County and across the Bay Area region. To help residents prepare, Marin’s Celebrate Safely webpage has received an update.
Health officials cite several factors that contribute to increased virus transmission. Cooler weather brings gatherings indoors, and families and friends travel to holiday celebrations. At the same time, immunity from the vaccine is waning for those who were vaccinated more than six months ago.
In Marin, an early and aggressive vaccination campaign meant most residents were vaccinated before May, so most are now eligible for boosters.
“It’s a concerning combination of factors,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “The holidays bring more opportunities for transmission, and at the same time the protection of the first series of vaccine starts to wane.”
Marin County Public Health is strongly suggesting that COVID-19 precautions continue to be in place for holiday gatherings this season. Two new recommendations for this year include limiting indoor gatherings to those who are fully vaccinated, and performing rapid antigen testing for all participants on the day of the event.
Rapid antigen COVID-19 self-tests are widely available at pharmacies, and appointments for testing at clinics are abundant. A key source is Public Health’s webpage, coronavirus.marinHHS.org/testing.
When planning an indoor holiday gathering, Willis recommends having participants conduct a self-test in the morning to assure the visitors are not infectious to others. Anyone who feels COVID-19 symptoms should skip such gatherings until being tested, he said. Likewise, participants should obtain a test four or five days after the gathering.
Here are other important tips from Marin County Public Health to prevent another surge:
- Limit capacity of gatherings.
- Meet outdoors whenever possible.
- Keep a list of attendees in case a positive COVID-19 test emerges.
- Get a booster soon if you’re eligible.
- Shorten the duration of indoor activities.
- Seek well ventilated indoor spaces.
Most of the other two-year-old precautions remain recommended during this season’s holiday gatherings and visits from out-of-towners. Those practices include a wearing a face covering (especially indoors), washing hands frequently, minimizing personal contact, using hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t convenient, and sitting or standing a few feet away from people outside your own household. Face coverings are recommended in private settings at which not everyone has been vaccinated or when around people who are vulnerable to more serious outcomes if infected with COVID-19.
“Gathering together is important to well-being, especially over the holidays,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Deputy Public Health Officer. “If we follow these measures, I’m confident we can gather with our loved ones more safely.”
More local information about COVID-19 can be found on Public Health’s coronavirus webpage.