The Holidays and COVID-19: How to Stay Safe

Published on: Nov 8, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
How to Stay Safe From COVID-19 During the HolidaysDesign: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images

You might be going ho-ho-home for the holidays. But before you do that, health experts have some safety guidelines that you’ll want to check twice.

More than 57% of the US population is fully vaxxed against COVID-19. And tens of millions of Americans are eligible for a booster shot. But, reminder: we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. All of which could make holiday planning complicated.

How to Stay Safe While Celebrating the Holidays

The CDC’s top rec: get vaxxed. The agency says it’s “the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk,” especially as different generations get together for the holidays. Here’s what else you can do to stay safe when celebrating with…

Family and friends…Masks are still the best accessory for everyone two years and older. Especially for those who are unvaxxed. And even those with a vax card should consider a mask if celebrating in an area with high transmission rates. Outdoor and well-ventilated spaces are best for big meet-ups. But if you’re sick, stay home and Zoom into the festivities. And if you might have been exposed to the virus, health experts recommend getting tested. Also, try avoiding crowded spaces during your travel journey and consider taking a test before your trip.

  • Psst...If you’re planning to host or attend a celebration, you might want to ask friends and family about their vax status. We’ve got tips on how to do that here.

Those at higher risk of COVID-19...Including those who are 65+. Or who have underlying medical conditions (weakened immune system, heart conditions, diabetes). Fully vaxxed people under this category may still be vulnerable to the virus. So, it’s important to take basic preventative measures. Btw, people who fall under this group are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot. We’ve got more on that here.

Young children...Many are now eligible for a vaccine. The FDA and CDC have given Pfizer/BioTech’s vaccine the green light for emergency use in kids aged five to 11. And shots may be available as soon as this week. (Remember: Starting in the summer, adolescents aged 12-15 are eligble to get a dose of Pfizer's shot.)

In the meantime, the CDC recs that unvaxxed family members – including children ages two and older – wear a mask indoors. If younger than two, it’s best to limit visits with people who aren’t vaccinated. And keep children at a safe distance from others in public. 

Side note: The CDC’s also recommending people six months and older get a flu shot. And says curbside or drive-thru vax clinics might be the best way to go. Especially in communities with high transmission of COVID-19. Oh, and... health experts have given people the 'all clear' to get vaxxed against COVID-19 and the flu at the same time

What about travel?

If you’re vaccinated, there are steps you should still take to stay safe. Wear a mask on public transportation (it’s a requirement). And monitor yourself for any COVID-19 symptoms after your trip. The CDC suggests that those traveling with unvaxxed kids for the holidays take short road trips. And if you have to fly, consider picking a flight that doesn’t require layovers. If you’re unvaxxed, get tested before and after your trip to ensure you’re good to go. And, when in doubt, follow the 2020 motto: mask up, social distance, and wash your hands. 

For those saying 'see U(SA) later,' here are some tips for staying safe…

  • Review the State Dept’s travel advisories. Officials are warning against travel to several countries due to COVID-19. Check the list out here

  • Fully vaxxed people who’ve been exposed to the virus don’t have to quarantine and can travel. That is unless they have COVID-19 symptoms. Then, health officials say to 'isolate stat.' Do not travel. (Remember: It may help to check in on your destination’s travel rules.) And call your doctor. Stay home for 14 days after exposure. Travel tip: If you need to get to a doctor, opt for an ambulance or private vehicle. No public transportation, if you can.

  • The testing guidelines for Americans returning to the US vary. Those who are unvaxxed will have to provide a negative test within one day of traveling to airlines. And those who got their shot(s) also have to get tested within three days. Children under two can skip this requirement.

If you have family or friends visiting from abroad, heads up: As of Nov 8, the US is welcoming fully vaccinated travelers from 33 countries. Here’s what they should know:

  • Vaccines that are authorized by the FDA or World Health Organization are fair game. 

  • There are a few exemptions from the vax requirement, including those under 18.

  • All international travelers – not including children under two – still have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to airlines before boarding. (Note: some airlines may already have a process set up for uploading this info, check with your airline). 


The holiday season is a time to be merry with your loved ones. But during a pandemic, extra precautions and planning are necessary. After all, health and good company can make the best gifts. 

Last updated Nov. 8 to reflect that fully vaxxed international travelers can come into the US.

Last updated Nov. 2 to include FDA’s emergency use authorization of Pfizer/BioTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids aged 5-11.

Skimm'd by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Maria Martinolich, and Kamini Ramdeen

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