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Holiday gatherings ‘encouraged’ this year, here’s how to stay safe

Coronavirus in Kansas

A Thanksgiving meal is seen in an undated file photo. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — As people make plans for the upcoming holidays, some health experts said things are changing, and so are recommendations for people gathering with family and friends.

Last year, there were warnings of gatherings at parties, but Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino with the Kansas Health Institute told Kansas Capitol Bureau that those plans are being “encouraged.”

“We were encouraging people to stay home, to rethink their travel plans, to only attend small gatherings. This year, we are saying these things have value,” Dr. Pezzino said.

After a year of uncertainty and ups and downs, Pezzino said medical professionals are learning to take a new approach to deal with coronavirus during the pandemic. He said this is because the vaccine has become more widely available, which has been a “game-changer.” For people who are vaccinated, there’s a reduced risk of getting a severe infection. So, celebrating the holiday season with family may not pose as much of a threat.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said that people who may still feel uncomfortable can still follow safety measures like wearing a mask or social distancing. He also warned it’s important to get vaccinated to stay safe.

“That safety comes in the form of reduced risk of getting the infection, depending on how far out from vaccination you are,” Dr. Hawkinson said. “But especially against the more severe forms of illness.”

Dr. Pezzino also pointed to the vaccine as the best way to stay safe during the holiday season, especially when gathering indoors where air circulation is limited. Pezzino said it’s important to stay alert and weigh your own risk.

“Now’s not the time to be reckless,” he said. “But knowing what we are getting into in terms of situation, or the social environment around us, and then deciding if it’s a calculated risk we want to take or not.”

For CDC recommendations on how to celebrate the holidays in a safer way, click here.

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