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A Holiday Message From our Epidemiologist:
Greetings and Happy Holidays,
As we approach the holiday season this year, we want to ensure that you and your family have a safe and healthy holiday. We understand that celebrations and family gatherings over the last couple of years have looked much different for our communities due to the pandemic. As we try to get back to a sense of normalcy, we want to inform you of the current state we are in and the measures you can take to keep your family healthy during this time.
We are currently seeing high numbers of COVID-19, flu, and RSV cases throughout the state. With the increase in travel, our children being home from school, holiday events, and gatherings with friends and family, we expect to see another surge in the coming weeks. As a reminder, the largest peak for COVID-19 was seen in January 2021, following the 2020 holiday season. December through February is our peak flu season, and this year we are seeing a surge in cases earlier than usual with expected numbers and hospitalizations to continue to rise.
As we say time and time again, the best prevention for both the flu and COVID-19 is vaccinations. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season to help reduce the risk of serious illness. The CDC recommends that individuals ages 5 years and older receive an updated bivalent COVID-19 booster if it has been at least 2 months since their last COVID-19 vaccine dose, regardless of if that was their final primary series dose or an original monovalent booster. On December 9th, 2022, the CDC also expanded the use of the updated bivalent vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years.
We recognize that vaccines do not fully prevent these diseases therefore we recommend the following additional preventive measures to stay safe and healthy this season:
• The simplest way to help prevent disease is good personal hygiene, including handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Avoid close contact with those who are sick, stay home when you are sick, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill.
• Stay home if you have a suspected or confirmed illness so that you do not spread it to others regardless of if you are symptomatic. Symptoms for COVID-19, the flu, and RSV may look similar therefore, testing at home for COVID-19 or reaching out to your provider for additional testing if you have been exposed is recommended. You can order free COVID-19 self-tests at COVIDtests.gov or reach out to your local health department. Having home tests available for guests is also a good idea to ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable in a group setting.
• If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised or severely allergic to COVID-19 vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are eligible for a medicine called EVUSHELD™ that you can take before you are exposed or test positive for COVID-19. This medicine contains antibodies and can offer protection against certain strains of COVID-19 but will not prevent the disease.
• Regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask if you have been exposed and avoid additional exposure to those who are sick. Likewise, if you do test positive, please inform those you have been in contact with to prevent further spread.
• Continue to check with your local Board of Health and mass.gov for updates, transmission levels, and further recommendations this season.
For more information on how to stay safe and healthy this holiday season please visit the CDC website. We hope you enjoy this time of celebration with friends and family, and we wish you a happy holiday.