As COVID cases in Illinois continue to rise —with the state's positivity rate increasing to 3.3% this week — what's the safest way for family members of all ages to safely gather in person for the Thanksgiving holiday?
Here's a breakdown of the COVID guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and from the Cook County Department of Public Health.
Do I Need to Wear a Mask Indoors?
While Illinois does still have an indoor mask mandate for those over 2-years-old, it only applies public places and not private residences.
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If you are not vaccinated, a good rule of thumb in all indoor spaces, according to the CCDPH, is to wear a well-fitting mask over your mouth and nose not just to protect yourself, but also those around you who are high-risk or not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.
If you can, open windows at your holiday gathering to increase ventilation, or move your gathering outdoors altogether.
What if I Haven't Been Vaccinated?
It's recommended that you at least get one dose of the COVID vaccine if you're eligible before a gathering or traveling, to protect yourself and others who are more vulnerable.
If you are not fully vaccinated, meaning it has not been at least two weeks since the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it's best to remain masked indoors at all times except when eating or drinking.
It is also recommended to test within 24 hours before being with others not in your household.
If you haven't been vaccinated, it's best to wear a mask and stay socially distant.
What if I Have Been Vaccinated?
If you have been vaccinated and are eligible to get a booster shot— which means you're 18 years or older, and it's been at least six months from your last Pfizer or Moderna dose or at least two months from the Johnson & Johnson shot —it's recommended that you get one.
Federal regulators have recommended getting the same shot as your first dose for booster doses, and Chicago's Commissioner of the Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady said that applies particularly to those who got an mRNA vaccine.
For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Arwady said "we definitely are seeing people choosing to get the Pfizer or Moderna as their follow up dose," a move she "fully supports."
Should I Get Tested?
If you are sick or are having COVID symptoms, it's best to get tested and not participate in hosting or joining any holiday gatherings.
Testing is also recommended for those who have been in close contacted with someone who has recently tested positive for COVID. If you're fully vaccinated, that means getting tested 5–7 days after the last exposure.
If you aren't fully vaccinated, get tested immediately after you find out you've been in close contact, and then again in 5-7 if symptoms develop.
CCPDH also recommends testing within 24 hours before being with others not in your household.
Finally, ask your family or Thanksgiving host what their preferences around testing or vaccination is, especially if you're traveling through a crowded indoor public place, like an airport, to the gathering.