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Don't let omicron crash your holiday gathering. Here's how to keep your family safe

作者:Maria Godoy 发布日期:12-19-2021

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Nearly a dozen states have now identified cases of the newest coronavirus variant, and while there's still a lot we don't know about omicron, preliminary data shows it's more transmissible than delta, which is the dominant variant here in the U.S., and that reinfections are more likely. And that may make many of us wonder what kind of changes we need to make to stay safe. NPR's health correspondent Maria Godoy joins us. Maria, thanks so much for being with us.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Thank you. My pleasure.

SIMON: I think two big questions that many people must wonder about right now is whether their COVID-19 vaccines will protect them against omicron, and should they get a booster?

GODOY: Well, you know, there's good hope that the current vaccines will still offer protection against severe disease. You know, the Biden administration is urging people to get a booster to help protect against omicron, and the science so far backs up this advice. Scientists are learning that boosters don't just raise your antibody levels. They actually also broaden your immune response in ways that help protect you against multiple variants. Paul Bieniasz is a virologist at Rockefeller University who studies how the immune system response broadens over time. And he says, yeah, get a booster shot.

PAUL BIENIASZ: I'm somebody who's been vaccinated three times, and I think that's absolutely the right way to go.

GODOY: And if you spend time with someone who is immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk for severe disease from COVID, boost for their sake too.

SIMON: Maria, as I don't have to tell you, the holiday decorations have already come out. Should people cancel holiday parties?

GODOY: No, but experts say you do want to layer the protections as we gather indoors, and not just because of omicron. Remember, the delta variant is still spreading, and the U.S. is averaging around 100,000 new cases a day over the last week. So for safer gatherings, experts say, make sure everyone attending is vaccinated and boosted if they're eligible, and take a rapid antigen test - the kind that you can take at home within a day of the party to reduce the risk that someone who shows up might be infected with COVID. Here's Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University.

CARLOS DEL RIO: If I had test available, readily available, when I get together for Christmas with my family, I may just say, let's get everybody tested since we're all coming from different parts of the country. That's a great way to prevent somebody who is infected from coming in and infecting somebody else.

SIMON: But Maria, those tests can be hard to find, and they are not cheap.

GODOY: I know. The cheapest one will still cost about $12 a test. So if you do have to ration tests, Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF has this advice.

MONICA GANDHI: If we have to use testing judiciously - which sometimes we do because rapid antigen tests aren't as available - I would really favor those who are unvaccinated testing who are coming to the gathering, and then also anyone who has any symptoms.

GODOY: Now, the Biden administration announced a new plan this week to make tests more available and affordable. Private insurers will soon have to reimburse consumers for rapid tests, and people without insurance will be able to get free tests from clinics and some other sites.

SIMON: Should people reassess holiday travel plans, especially perhaps overseas?

GODOY: Not necessarily, but do weigh your decision to travel carefully. If you're at high risk for severe disease, maybe don't go just now. Wear an N95 or similar high-quality mask if you're flying, and if you're traveling abroad, you now have to show a negative coronavirus test taken no more than one day before returning to the U.S. So if you're in a foreign country, make sure you know where to get a test, and that could be a logistical headache.

SIMON: NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy, thanks so much.

GODOY: Anytime, Scott.

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