CDC Releases Updated COVID-19 Guidelines For 2021 Holiday Season

The agency initially recommended virtual and distanced celebrations with those who live outside your household, but has since removed the recommendation

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What to Know

  • The CDC says this year it fully expects Americans to travel and gather after being apart for the 2020 holidays.
  • In new guidance, the CDC urged people to get vaccinated before the holiday parties and travel begin.
  • The agency also offered safety tips, including driving close to home with few stops and selecting flights with as few connections as possible.

After some confusion earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released updated guidance around gathering and traveling for the holiday season.

On Friday, the CDC released the updated guidance, saying the best way to safely observe the holiday season is being vaccinated against COVID-19.

A representative from the agency said in an email Friday they "fully expect that families and friends will gather for the holidays this year."

In the updated guidance, the CDC encourages getting vaccinated to protect those not yet eligible for vaccination, as well as wearing masks in public indoor settings.

Generally, according to CDC guidance, those who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask outdoors unless in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases. In that case, individuals should wear masks outdoors when in crowded settings or when coming in close contact with those who are not fully vaccinated. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their mask guidelines on Tuesday, July 27, in light of surges of hyper-contagious delta variant. The CDC now recommends both unvaccinated and vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.

If you are looking to travel this holiday season, the CDC encourages waiting until you are fully vaccinated to do so. 

Advice For Getting to Your Destination

Mode of transportation is also a factor in protection against the virus. The CDC says the best way to travel is taking short road trips with members of your household or fully vaccinated people with few stops along the way. If flying, try to take flights with the fewest stops or layovers.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, regardless of vaccination status.

Tips on Choosing Where to Stay

When considering travel accommodations, staying in a house or cabin with people from your household or fully vaccinated people is the safest option. Additionally, opt for takeout and avoid eating inside poorly ventilated restaurants where social distancing is not possible.

What to Do If You're Not Yet Vaccinated

For those who are not vaccinated or are not eligible for vaccination, the agency has outlined continued safe travel practices:

  • Mask
  • Avoid crowds
  • Maintain a six-foot distance from others
  • Wash hands or using hand sanitizer regularly

Last November, the Transportation Security Administration reported more than 1.6 million people screened at airport checkpoints in one day during Thanksgiving travel. It was the highest number of people screened since March 12 of that year.  

Pew Research Center study conducted last year found that 57% of Americans adjusted their Thanksgiving plans due to COVID-19. 

On Oct. 1, it appeared the CDC had released new guidance for gathering this holiday season as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread nationwide. The agency recommended virtual and distanced celebrations with those who live outside your household, but in the event of indoor gatherings, said to open windows and doors as well as utilizing a window fan for circulation.

Then 72 hours later, on Oct. 4, the CDC removed the guidance from their website.

In an email to NBC, a CDC representative said at the time that their website "had a technical update on (Oct. 1), but doesn’t reflect the CDC’s guidance ahead of this upcoming holiday season."

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