Gathering for Thanksgiving? Here’s what JoCo health officials recommend to stay COVID-safe

COVID holiday safe

New cases and rates of hospitalization have gone up in Johnson County in recent weeks, prompting local health officials to issue new guidance ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday that includes a plea for eligible residents 18 and older to get their booster shots. Image used under a Creative Commons license. Photo credit anjuli_ayer.

New COVID-19 cases and rates of hospitalizations in Johnson County have increased over the past two weeks, prompting county health officials to urge residents to get their booster shots if they are eligible and to also take precautions during the coming holiday season.

Local doctors are encouraging eligible residents to get COVID-19 booster shots and take steps to help curb new infections and hospitalizations, which could spike even more following large gatherings and increased travel next week for Thanksgiving.

“Many of us missed getting together with loved ones last year and are ready to get back to normal. This is a good thing, but the pandemic is not over,” Johnson County Department of Health and Environment director of health Dr. Samni Areola said.

As of Thursday, Johnson County’s percent positivity sat at 6.9% and its incidence rate at 143 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to the county’s online COVId-19 dashboard.

That’s compared to percent positivity of 4.6% and an incidence rate of 106 per 100,000 at the beginning of November.

Booster shots urged

Booster shots are now available following Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement this week that all adults in the state are now eligible to receive an additional booster dose.

Johnson County residents who are 18 or older can now receive the booster shot as long as they have been vaccinated no less than six months ago, if they received the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and two months ago if they have received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

Health officials continue to implore anyone to receive the vaccination if they have not already, as it is the best protection against COVID-19 infection.

JCHDE reports that 59.4% of eligible Johnson County residents, including children 5 and older, are now fully vaccinated.

Additionally, doctors recommend protecting yourself by getting a booster dose as studies have shown vaccines’ efficacy may wane following initial vaccination and a booster would aid in protection.

“Consideration on get-togethers should be given to age, health conditions and vaccination status of everyone getting together. And wear masks consistently to minimize risk,” Areola said in a statement released by JCDHE this week. “This is not the time to let our guard down as we move indoors where the virus can spread easily.”

What else can you do to stay safe this holiday season?

Along with recommending booster doses, health officials also recommend a “layered approach” to follow this holiday season, if you are going to be around those who might be vulnerable or especially at-risk, including young children not yet eligible to be vaccinated, those with underlying health conditions or autoimmune disorders.

Here are tips offered by the county health department:

  • Getting vaccinated remains the best protection for you and those around you, JCDHE says. And with the availability of boosters across the state, it is also recommended to maintain the highest level of immunity to the virus. Vaccination and now boosters are readily available across Johnson County at JCDHE health centers, pharmacies, and primary care doctors. It is also recommended to get your flu shot for the season and your vaccination shot as it’s safe and effective.
  • Get tested if you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed. It is better to be safe than risk a loved one’s health. Testing is widely available at clinics, pharmacies and at-home rapid tests are also widely available.
  • It might also be a good idea to wear a mask if you are planning on bringing together people from various households or gathering indoors with a large group of people. If possible, it might also be a good idea to increase ventilation by keeping a window open or using an indoor fan.
  • Make sure to wash your hands frequently, and if you’re feeling sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19, stay home.

JCDHE officials are available to answer questions concerning vaccination or testing for residents in need of assistance.

To schedule an appointment or general inquiry email jcdhe@jocogov.org. Spanish speakers are available to assist by phone or email as well.

You can also visit vaccines.gov to search for the closest vaccination site by using your zip code.