Debating whether or not you should see family this holiday season?
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday released new guidance for how to celebrate the holidays safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state's top doctor suggested tips for traveling, shopping and gathering with loved ones during Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays.
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“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer.”
Among the guidance was:
- If you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests.
- Try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.
- If your gathering needs to be inside, try to increase air flow by partially opening a couple windows.
- Please prepare yourself and your guests to wear masks indoors when not eating and drinking.
- Limit your activities in the two weeks before your gathering and ask your guests to do the same. This will decrease the risk of exposure to the virus and further spread.
- Think about the seating arrangements if you are planning a meal. Keep members of the same household together and try to put space between one family and another.
- When serving food, avoid a buffet-style or potluck setting and consider having one person serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
- Try to limit the number of people going in and out of areas where food is being prepared – like the kitchen and dining room.
- If you are sick, do not travel and do not attend gatherings and celebrations. Even if your symptoms are mild, you may still be able to infect others.
- To help stave off illness, get your flu vaccine now. It takes the body several weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up antibodies that will help protect you from flu, so get it now to help protect you and others during the holidays.
"There is no free pass in the season of giving when it comes to COVID-19," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday. "When confronted with decisions about the upcoming holiday season, many people who have erred on the side of caution up to now might face new temptation to let their guard down.Let me be blunt: the virus isn’t taking a holiday. It only wants to find new hosts. And if you think it’s ok to let your guard down because some people seem fine after they get COVID-19, I’ll remind you that many young people in their 20s and 30s and 40s are experiencing 'long-hauler' symptoms of this virus — pulmonary issues, months long breathing and coughing issues, exhaustion. Even for healthy, young people, that’s not a walk in the park, so don’t treat it like one. The safest thing to do is take precautions.
"Dr. Ezike and I want to be with our families and friends during the holidays too," he added. "We are all human beings, and we all want to see and spend time with our loved ones whom we’ve spent the better part of a year worrying about."
Ezike declined to give more specific answers for families, stating that home layouts and space availability play a role in determining how many people should be allowed to gather at a time.
Illinois health officials on Wednesday reported 2,862 new coronavirus cases and 49 additional deaths over the last 24 hours as Pritzker warned that all of the state's 11 health care regions have seen an increase in testing positivity rates.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Wednesday's figures bring the state’s totals to 327,605 cases and 9,074 deaths since the pandemic began.
Nearly 53,000 tests were reported Wednesday, bringing the state's seven-day positivity rate to 4.6%.
Pritzker said Wednesday that the latest figures indicate the state is moving in a "concerning direction."
"Unfortunately, all 11 regions have seen an increase in positivity compared to where we were at last week’s update. Statewide, our positivity rate has grown by more than one full percentage point in the last week alone. And in most regions, COVID-like hospital admissions have increased in the same time period," he said during a news conference.
"To date, Illinois has had relative success in keeping this virus at bay, and we’re still doing better than many of our neighbors, but we can’t let up – and these numbers are indicating a concerning direction," he continued.
"We are seeing changes in positivity averages around the state level off, with three regions that were decreasing last week now sitting at a stable level," he said during a virtual update last Wednesday.