Health officials on Tuesday encouraged Vermonters to get COVID-19 booster shots right up through Wednesday to protect themselves and others as they travel and visit friends and family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Testing for the virus is also recommended, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a news conference — both before and after any travel or socializing.
There will be no COVID-19 testing on Thursday, however.
Levine said the health care community is bracing for a post-holiday uptick in COVID transmission.
“Unfortunately, we do expect to see more cases after Thanksgiving,” Levine said. He said the more planning that takes place around holiday gatherings, including the upcoming Christmas season, the better.
One rule of thumb: “The smaller and more vaccinated your gathering is, the safer it is,” Levine said. He added, “If you feel sick, even with mild symptoms, please stay home. With the high levels of COVID in our communities now, it’s not worth the risk.”
In addition to continuing to stress the importance of being vaccinated, Levine said Vermonters need to be getting a flu shot (which can take place at the same time).
“We are already seeing some flu, so we will have a flu season,” the commissioner said. He said health officials want to “avoid a surge of flu on top of COVID.”
For the Thanksgiving holiday, and as you plan for the upcoming Christmas season, the Vermont Department of Health recommends:
• Have the talk. Ask whether people will be fully vaccinated, or if extra precautions need to be taken for anyone at higher risk, such as wearing a mask when you’re not eating.
• Keep it small. The more people and households, the higher the chance that someone could have the virus and expose other people.
• Get tested. Testing before you gather is a great way to protect everyone. At-home tests you can buy at a pharmacy are a good tool for this, if you have access to them. They typically come in boxes of two, so if you use them, we recommend using one today or Wednesday and the other on Thanksgiving Day — to make sure your negative result is accurate.
• If you have symptoms, even mild ones, please skip the dinner and stay home.
• Get tested 5-7 days after the holiday gathering, even if you’re fully vaccinated and even if you don’t have any symptoms.
It’s probably too late to change many travel plans, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you travel to places with a lot of virus circulating or spend time with people who do, consider getting tested and following prevention steps, even if you are vaccinated, the Health Department advises.
In addition, travelers should bring their COVID-19 vaccination card along in case a business or venue asks to see it.
For more information about having a safe Thanksgiving with friends and family, or other COVID-19 questions, visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19.