As we enter our second holiday season with the COVID-19 virus looming over, the Athens City-County Health Department has released guidelines to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe this Thanksgiving.

With guests potentially coming from all across the state or country, it can be helpful to consider getting tested for COVID-19 in advance of travel to be positive that you aren’t bringing and unwanted guest with you, according to the release. Free testing kits can be picked up at branches of the Athens County Public Library system. ACPL home page lists what branches currently have tests available. As of print deadline, all seven branches have kits available.

Testing can also be done at local CVS pharmacies, Shrivers Pharmacy and The Drugstore at O’Bleness, according to the Ohio Department of Health website.

To those feeling ill this holiday season, ACCHD says skip the gathering and remain at home while staying away from others as much as possible to not spread the illness.

Other safety precautions include:

  • avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces
  • making sure guests wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer
  • regular disinfecting of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and counters
  • and wearing a mask in public indoor spaces if you aren’t vaccinated

In November of last year, daily case counts in Athens County ranged from 15 cases at the start of the month to 49 cases just days before Thanksgiving. Cases continued to spike some throughout the holidays but were dwarfed by the rise in case numbers caused by the delta variant as summer 2021 came to a close. Case counts this month have remained relatively low with the highest daily sitting at 20 new cases on Nov. 2, 2021.

Vaccination is the best way to stay safe from the virus, according to many health experts. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in children aged five to eleven by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. With this update, only children under the age of five are ineligible for the vaccine.

Even with vaccinations beginning for children, it takes five weeks for full vaccination to occur. The CDC also recently approved booster shots for all adults after six months has passed since the second dose.

In a statement, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. stated that with the winter months approaching, now is the time to use this “important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus.”

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff stated in a press conference earlier this month that the danger from the virus is still real, “Our optimism needs to be tempered by the fact that the numbers on the ground continue to tell us that we are most certainly not out of the woods yet.”

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