The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Staying healthy during the holiday gathering season 

Staying healthy during the holiday gathering season

Cold weather has arrived, and the holiday season is approaching. For many of us, that means indoor family gatherings, shared food, and lots of hugs. 

Almost three years since the outbreak of COVID-19 began, as the virus continues to circulate, that also means a time for precautions and safety, says WellSpan family physician Dr. Mark Goedecker, vice president and chief medical officer of primary care. 

The highly transmissible omicron variants of COVID-19 are now in our communities. While bivalent booster shots specific to these variants are available, only about half of adults have heard of the boosters, and only a third say they have received one or plan to get one soon, according to a poll by Kaiser Health News.  

How can you stay safe and healthy this fall and winter? 

Here are three tips from Goedecker. 

  • Get your COVID-19 vaccine or the latest booster. 

If you haven't received the primary series, it is never too late. 

WellSpan also offers the latest bivalent booster, which replaces the previous monovalent booster and protects against the strains of omicron now circulating. It is available to those who received the primary series and are over the age of 5. You need to wait at least two months since your last vaccine to get this booster.  

"Even those who already have had COVID-19 are eligible for the booster, which increases immunity to the recent strains and helps to protect all of us," Goedecker says. "Don't wait. Schedule the booster now so you can be fully protected by the time you gather with family. This will better protect the new babies in your family, as well as grandma and grandpa when you see them." 

  • Get your flu shot. 

Go here to schedule the vaccine. 

Anyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot to protect themselves and others, according to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The shots are particularly important for people age 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, and children under the age of 5. They are the highest risk of hospitalization and death from influenza, Goedecker notes. 

"The Southern Hemisphere just came off a very bad flu season, which can be an indicator of what may happen in the Northern Hemisphere," Goedecker said. "In fact, we already are starting to see documented cases of the flu in South Central Pennsylvania. Again, do not wait." 

  • Take steps to protect others. 

If you think you may have COVID-19, take a test and then observe proper isolation guidelines if you test positive (stay home for at least five days; wear a mask around others for 10 days, the CDC recommends.) 

If you have a virus or cold, and must go out, wear a mask when you are around others. 

At all times, regularly wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. 

"I know many of us no longer want to think about wearing a mask, but our health precautions during the pandemic helped us tamp down the flu season in the past two years," Goedecker said. "It was the best proof that being careful really works." 

For more information about COVID-19, go here.