CLEVELAND — With Thanksgiving a couple of days away, COVID-19 safety is on the minds of many as we prepare to get together with family and friends for the holiday.
Dr. David Margolius, division director of internal medicine at MetroHealth, said the “number one thing” you can do to stay safe is to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
“If you're over the age of 18, you now can get a third dose, if it's been greater than six months since your second dose,” Margolius said. “So if you want to be protected from severe COVID, getting the vaccine is the best thing.”
If you’re getting together with people, Margolius emphasized the importance of ventilation.
“If it's a warm enough day on Thanksgiving, doing as much as you can outside. If you're inside, opening windows, keeping the fans on, if you can. If you're in close quarters and you're not eating, you can wear a mask. I don't suspect many people will if they're there with family, so ventilation will be a big part of that,” Margolius said.
It all has to do with risk tolerance, according to Margolius.
“If everybody at a family gathering is vaccinated, if everybody over 65 is booster-ed, then there is almost a zero chance that someone will get severely ill from that immediate gathering. But they might get cold symptoms, or, you know, they might lose their sense of smell or taste for a few weeks after getting COVID. And those things are possible with the Delta variant, even with the vaccine,” Margolius said. “What we're trying to do now is prevent people from being in the hospital, and that's why the vaccines are so important. If you're okay with the risk of getting cold-like symptoms, then absolutely spend time with your family over Thanksgiving.”
For those who are risk-averse, such as those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, or children who aren’t fully vaccinated, Margolius recommended wearing a mask when you’re with loved ones.
And for those who are unvaccinated and plan to take a test before a holiday gathering, Margolius recommended an at-home, rapid antigen test.
“Those will show up positive if you're contagious. They'll show up negative if you're not contagious,” Margolius said. “And so they're really helpful, that's exactly what they're designed to do. So if you take one on Tuesday and you take one on Wednesday, if they're both negative, you can feel pretty confident that you're not going to bring COVID to your Thanksgiving dinner.”
He contrasted that with PCR tests, where it’s possible you could be asymptomatic and get a positive result because you had COVID a couple months prior and have since recovered.
However, Margolius noted that up to one-half of people with COVID have no symptoms, so you cannot assume you don’t have the virus just because you don’t have symptoms.
“I think the last year was really tough, and so even though the prevalence is nearly just as high this year, we're all going to spend time together, you know, and that's normal and we need that in our lives, and so, be as safe as you can. The risk is not going to be zero, but that's okay. And it should be a good holiday,” Margolius said.
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