What Will the Delta Variant Do to the Holidays? Questions to Help Families Plan Ahead

With the Delta variant continuing to spread, and children younger than 12 still waiting on a COVID-19 vaccine, the holidays are once again up in the air – especially for families with unvaccinated kids.

Still, we know your family may want to plan ahead for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, shares some questions to guide you.

Use these questions now to start thinking about the possibilities.

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Do you hope to celebrate with anyone outside your household?

  • If so, is anyone unvaccinated? If they’re old enough, encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine now, so they’re fully vaccinated before the holidays. Remember: It takes two weeks after your final dose for the COVID-19 vaccine to be fully effective.  
  • Can you limit the size of the gathering? The fewer the number of households, the lower everyone’s chance of spreading or catching COVID-19.
  • Can you set other COVID-19 ground rules? For example, would everyone agree to avoid unmasked indoor gatherings (like restaurants) the week before getting together?

Are you hoping to travel for the holidays?

  • Can you drive instead of fly? Airports are a higher risk for COVID-19, especially for unvaccinated kids, so it’s better to drive. Try to plan your timeline to avoid peak hours at crowded rest stops. Here are ideas to keep kids entertained on the road.
  • Can you make flexible travel reservations? From hotels to rental cars, look for options that are fully refundable, in case you have to cancel close to the travel date.
  • What is the community’s rate of COVID-19 transmission? On the CDC’s website, you can search the state and county to see if rates are low, moderate, substantial or high. If rates are rising, consider staying home and celebrating virtually instead.
  • What is the community’s percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations? It’s most important that eligible family or friends are fully vaccinated. It’s also helpful to know about the surrounding community, since places with high vaccination rates are generally safer. Use the same link above.

How will you decide whether to change or cancel holiday plans?

  • What’s your deadline to decide? Circle a week on the calendar to think through all of the above factors for keeping or changing your holiday plans. Encourage other households who are involved to do the same.
  • Would it be possible to move the event outdoors, if an indoor gathering won’t be responsible? Depending on the COVID-19 situation, would everyone agree to a Plan B that’s outside – even if that means lots of extra layers, and a shortened celebration?
  • What will you do if you have to cancel altogether? Be prepared with ideas to make the holidays special at home, in case COVID-19 cases rise, someone gets sick, or your comfort level changes. For help, check out Connecticut Children’s holiday series from last year.

Like so much with this pandemic, decisions often come down to lowering the risks you can control, figuring out your comfort level with risks you can’t control, and having a back-up plan if the situation changes. Families with unvaccinated children need to be especially careful, since kids can get very sick from COVID-19.

As the holidays get closer, please continue to follow the guidance of your child’s doctor and health leaders like the CDC. And make sure every eligible member of your family is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Healthy holidays are happy holidays.

 

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