Officials are urging people to enjoy Christmas parties while keeping an eye on coronavirus safety.
That means keeping gatherings small, making sure guests are vaccinated, trying to do as much outdoors as possible, and avoiding large crowds, especially indoors.
This is especially important as the COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in the past few days and the highly transmittable Omicron variant is becoming dominant.
Los Angeles County reported nearly 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday. According to data released Thursday by the California Department of Health, at least three state health systems have reported that Omicron appears to be responsible for 50 to 70% of new cases.
Small and safe
“We don’t encourage large indoor gatherings at all,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health, last week. “We still believe that if you have a big gathering to hold, you will be much, much safer – if you have that meeting in the open air.”
Smaller gatherings are safer than larger ones indoors, and Ferrer urged people to adhere to the order to wear masks in indoor public spaces. She suggested limiting the time you eat and drink to avoid situations where people are exposed for hours, which increases the risk of transmission.
“The more people you have around – and especially when you are in close contact with many, many different people – the greater your chance of getting infected,” Ferrer said. “That applies regardless of whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.”
People should also think about the risks to members of their families if they become infected. Those who live with people who are at high risk of serious complications should they get COVID-19, “want the types of activities you do that put you in great contact with potentially other people who might become infected, procrastinate for a while, “Ferrer said.
There are other factors to consider.
“The risk is real when you are in close contact with poor ventilation,” said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, an Orange County’s assistant health officer, last week. “The transmission occurs when people don’t pay attention to the preventive measures.”
In regards to ventilation, LA County suggested:
- Opening windows and doors
- Turn on a fan and put it near an open window, or let it run as long as possible if you have a heating and ventilation system
- Operating a portable air purifier to improve air filtration.
Pre- and post-gathering COVID-19 tests can also be helpful.
LA District officials said the expanded testing starting Friday includes extended hours of operation at test sites across the district, “additional weekend and weekend appointments,” and more mobile testing units in “hard-hit areas,” press release.
The county health department is also launching a vacation home test collection program, which allows residents to request a home nasal test swab set and have it delivered by FedEx within two days.
County health officials said the demand for tests has increased as residents prepare for the holiday celebrations. The county’s test positive rate has hit 9.6%, down from 4.6% on Tuesday, officials said.
“LA Counties are doing the right thing to have a pre-convention test if they have been exposed and the first signs of symptoms appear,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the district’s health department, in a press release. “We will continue to closely monitor testing needs and adjust capacity as needed in the coming weeks.”
Here you can find information about testing in specific areas:
Los Angeles District
City of Los Angeles
San Bernardino County
Santa Barbara District
San Diego County
Testing at LA County’s operated locations is free regardless of immigration status.
“Even if you are fully vaccinated, getting tested before or after gatherings or parties can make a difference if you are exposing someone you love to the virus,” said Dr. Dawn Terashita, assistant director of the LA County’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Program.
Here are some vacation tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Health:
- Be vaccinated
- Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth when in indoor public spaces and not fully vaccinated
- Even fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask in indoor public areas in communities with significant to high transmission
- It’s safer outside than inside
- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated rooms
- When you are sick or have symptoms, do not hold or attend meetings
- Tests can give you information about your risk of spreading COVID-19
- Consider doing a self-assessment before attending indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household
- Ventilate well when collecting inside. Open doors and windows, operate HVAC systems, and install high quality air filters
- Check the local conditions. Your county may have stricter guidelines than the state. Take extra precautions if the local virus transmission rate is high
- Enable CA Notify and ask your guests to do the same. CA Notify anonymously notifies individuals of a potential compromise.
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