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PAHO: Make wise, healthy choices for the holidays

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Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2020. 6:17 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: With the Americas seeing its peak of cases of COVID-19 in the last week or so, Pan American Health Organization Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said today, every gathering, every shopping trip, and every travel plan carries risks and people should follow the guidance of national and local health authorities to make the holidays as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s critical that everyone continues to practice the public health measures that we know are effective in controlling the spread of the virus,” such as wearing a mask in public, including in the presence of persons from other households and keeping a safe distance from others, explained Dr. Barbosa. People should also avoid the 3Cs: spaces that are closed, crowded, or involve close contact with others, and wash their hands often. “These measures are especially important as we enter the holiday season when communities congregate to mark religious celebrations and generations of families come together to give thanks,” he continued.

He added that this was not the time to host any large gatherings, especially in countries with the widespread transmission, and base their decisions on data showing where the virus is spreading and the capacity of health systems to keep up.

Smaller indoor gatherings are also risky if they bring people from different households not adhering to the same measures. Where possible, be outside, masked, and socially distanced; if inside, limit the group size and use a well-ventilated area.

If you choose to travel – through PAHO advises you should not – do not rely on laboratory testing as this does not guarantee safe travel or eliminate risk, Barbosa said.

The Americas has had more than 25 million COVID-19 cases and more than 700 thousand deaths. In the last week alone, there were 1.5 million cases, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, seen mainly in the United States but also elsewhere because of different epidemiological patterns.

The news of efficient vaccines being created does not remove the burden of being safe and cautious as these still needed to be approved before they are made widely available.

He concluded that the decisions we all make do not just affect our loved ones but all of our communities and the sacrifices we have made for work, school, and interaction are no different from those we must make in the holiday season.

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