The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) urges all Georgians to plan ahead and take steps to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the flu as they celebrate the holiday season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend several ways to enjoy holiday traditions while protecting the health of those involved.

•The best protection against COVID and the flu is vaccination, and the vaccines can be administered at the same time. People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose J&J COVID-19 vaccine. Likewise, it takes about two weeks after getting a flu vaccine for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.

•For young children who aren't yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, reduce the risk of exposure by making sure the people around them are vaccinated.

•Wear well-fitting masks over the nose and mouth if in public indoor settings and not fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.

•Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.

•Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

•Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

•Those sick or having symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, should not host or attend a gathering.

•Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should get tested.

•Those who are not fully vaccinated for COVID and must travel should follow the CDC’s recommendations.

•Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated for COVID, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.

Fifty-one percent of Georgians are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 which means every crowd is a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and the risk of COVID transmission exists, especially the delta variant which is more contagious and can cause more severe illness than other variants. DPH is closely monitoring COVID case increases in Europe and parts of the United States. Additionally, surveillance in Georgia indicates flu activity is increasing in some areas.

Holiday traditions are important for families and children. By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends.

To find a COVID or flu vaccine location, visit phdistrict2.org

For more information about safely celebrating this holiday season, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/celebrations.html.

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