coronavirus illinois

Infectious Disease Expert Discusses Safety Questions for Holiday Gatherings Amid COVID Surge

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As the holidays approach and as COVID cases rise, there is a simple question on the minds of many Illinois residents: should the spread of the virus change the way Illinoisans celebrate the holidays?

The question comes as millions travel to visit loved ones this holiday season, and with the omicron variant spreading rapidly, and with case numbers reaching new heights, residents are seeking answers about the best way to safely celebrate the holiday season.

Dr. Sajal Tanna, an infectious diseases specialist at Northwestern University, was asked by NBC 5 what her thoughts were on holiday celebrations, and she says that her advice is changing by the day because of evolving information about the state of the pandemic.

“I’ve become more and more conservative about my recommendations with each passing day,” she said.

Here are some of the questions that we asked Dr. Tanna.

Q: Is it safe to have a family gathering where everyone is vaccinated, but not boosted?

A: “I think it’s risky, and you have a good chance if even one person has an asymptomatic case, or is infected, that they’ll pass it to everybody else.”

Q: Is it safe if some people are not vaccinated, but everyone has a negative COVID tests within 24 hours of the party?

A: “Being unvaccinated is just very risky right now, and at this point in the pandemic, with the way we’re seeing the numbers, I would decline to interact with anybody unvaccinated without my mask on.”

Q: What if some individuals in our group are high-risk for complications, but everyone is vaccinated and boosted? Is that safe?

A: “If I were a person with a high-risk for complications, I would stay home.”

Q: Is it safe to join a gathering if I’ve recently recovered from COVID-19?

A: “If you’re recently recovered from COVID-19, you were probably infected with the delta strain. We’re seeing about 50-to-60% of our samples having the omicron strain right now, and there’s actually a really high re-infection rate with omicron.”

Dr. Tanna echoed the sentiments of Illinois health officials when it comes to the safest practices to use when visiting loved ones. In addition to getting booster shots and being tested before the gathering, ventilation is a key factor, with residents urged to open windows or to gather outside around a nice warm fire.

Washing hands and social distancing are also important components to staying safe this holiday season, according to experts.

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