CDC holiday guidance calls for COVID vaccine, masks indoors

Daniel J. Munoz//October 18, 2021

CDC holiday guidance calls for COVID vaccine, masks indoors

Daniel J. Munoz//October 18, 2021

Pared down guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday gatherings are okay, but strongly advocates for masking, the COVID-19 vaccine, and for those who are eligible to get the booster.

“Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible,” the CDC said in its Oct. 15 guidance.

Outdoor settings are generally safer, the CDC said, and face coverings should be worn indoors in areas with high rates of transmission. Crowded, poorly ventilated spaces should be avoided, the federal agency added.

Because younger children cannot get the vaccine, the CDC says adults around them should get the shot.

Friday’s guidelines are less strict than an initial set of guidance the CDC put out earlier this month, which called for a socially distanced holiday season. That advice mirrored much of the guidance published for the 2020 holiday season when vaccines were scarce and urged that “the safest way to celebrate is virtual, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others,” but the CDC retracted those guidelines.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci in July 2021.
White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci in July 2021. – OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY ADAM SCHULTZ

The first major holiday around the corner is Halloween, which the Biden administration also said is generally safe. Last year, health officials largely warned against Halloween trick or treating.

“I think that, particularly if you’re vaccinated, you can get out there and enjoy it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and White House chief medical advisor, told CNN’s “State Of the Union” on Oct. 10.

Federal and state health officials have warned though, that crowded indoor gatherings,  like Halloween parties, could be particularly risky.

“It won’t be going door-to-door trick-or-treating” that leads to a COVID-19 outbreak, but rather, “it’ll be the party in somebody’s basement or the dinner table,” Gov. Phil Murphy previously said.

Many business groups and public health experts NJBIZ interviewed said that as COVID-19 enters a longer-stage endemic rather than an acute pandemic, more people may simply be willing to accept the risk of holiday gatherings.

People who are fully vaccinated and not living with anyone at risk,” like the unvaccinated, immunocompromised or elderly, “may choose to just live their regular life,” said Sylvia Twersky, a public health professor at The College of New Jersey

But market analysts are turning their attention away from the pandemic and toward matters such as the labor shortage and global shipping delays, both of which could pose much bigger problems for the holiday season.

“If something that usually takes days, takes weeks to arrive this holiday season, there are going to be a lot of empty Christmas trees and sad Hanukkah nights,” U.S Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th District, said during an Oct. 12 press conference at the Port of Newark.