BOSTON (CBS) — Many Americans are looking forward to a more “normal” holiday season this year, but will the rise in COVID cases in Massachusetts and other parts of New England put a wrench in those best-laid plans? Dr. Mallika Marshall is here to answer the latest questions about Thanksgiving as it pertains to the coronavirus.
Q: Doctor, is it true that a recent survey found that many Americans plan to play it safe again this year?
A: Yes. A national survey by Ohio State University found that when it comes to holiday gatherings, half of Americans will ask guests about their vaccination status, half will ask their guests to wear masks, and nearly 75% plan to celebrate only with members of their household.
Q: Thanksgiving is a week away, and I can imagine it’s hard to ask guests to wear masks during a family feast. Should people really be concerned about dining indoors?
A: I would say if you keep the gathering relatively small, if everyone over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and those eligible for boosters are boosted, and there is no one in attendance who is particularly vulnerable, the risk of getting together for Thanksgiving dinner or for a holiday party is low.
Q: What about people who will be in a mixed crowd of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated guests?
A: It’s really the unvaccinated who are at the highest risk of getting infected, getting really sick, and passing it on to others. If you’re attending an event, ask the host if everyone who is eligible for a vaccine is vaccinated. If not, I might think twice about going. If you’re hosting an event this year, I would ask those who are unvaccinated to perform a rapid home antigen test on the morning of the event and wear masks while in your home.
Q: And should fully vaccinated people be worried about breakthrough infections during the holiday season?
A: Breakthrough infections are going to occur. That’s expected. The vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection and immunity wanes over time. So if you’re six or more months out from your second shot, you’re at higher risk of getting infected than you were in those first few months. Fortunately, you’re still unlikely to get sick enough to need emergency care, but you could still get a flu-like illness. That’s why it’s great that all adults in Massachusetts are now eligible to get boosters.