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How to stay COVID-safe during the holidays

With COVID-19 spreading again across much of the nation, we hear from a local expert on how best to protect yourself and your family.

With Thanksgiving just hours away, and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, a lot of us are planning on once again gathering with family and friends. At the same time, there is concern about COVID-19.

“We should consider fully vaccinated is three shots,” Dr. Eric Topol said.

That is his topline advice as we head into the holidays. Topol directs the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla. He's a nationally recognized expert in infectious diseases.

A woman is vaccinated at the COVID-19 vaccination site at CSU San Marcos. Feb. 22, 2021.
Matt Hoffman
A woman is vaccinated at the COVID-19 vaccination site at CSU San Marcos. Feb. 22, 2021.

He said if you’re not already vaccinated, get the shot, and if you’re more than six months past your second dose, get the booster which is now available to everyone 18 and older.

“When the person reaches six months, all these vaccines have significant waning," Topol said.

While San Diego County is in pretty good shape with nearly 76% of residents fully vaccinated, it’s a different story nationwide. Only 59% are fully vaccinated, and that’s a big problem since viruses don’t stay put.

“We need to get 90% of this country’s population vaccinated,” he said.

It’s sad that we’ve had to resort to mandates, but Topol said they work.

A new COVID-19 pill that’s on the horizon will be very helpful as long as it’s taken within the first five days of infection, he said.

Even with the concerning situation as we head into winter, Topol said we won’t see any more lockdowns. But as we gather for holiday celebrations in groups where you’re unsure about everyone’s vaccination status, he said it will be more important than ever to mask up.

There’s another critical tool for protecting ourselves when we plan on gathering with others — testing. On that front, Topol said the United States is completely failing.

“We don’t even have the tests here. In Europe, there’s over 100 rapid tests that are available," he said. "We have one, not available and expensive. It should be free. It should be available to every household to pick up and it can be used for the holiday gatherings.”

As far as traveling goes, Topol said if you’re fully vaccinated, booster included, you’re good to go.

“But if not, I’d be worried if you’re five or six months out," he said.

Bottom line — take every precaution you can to make the holiday as safe as it can be as this stubborn pandemic continues.