TOPEKA, (KSNT)— The latest state holiday safety guidance includes wearing masks, even for people who are fully vaccinated.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) updated guidelines encourages Kansans to take the appropriate precautions to celebrate the upcoming holiday safely, as coronavirus cases spread throughout the region.
“The end of the year is an extremely busy time for us all and it is important that we continue to make our health and safety a priority. We encourage all Kansans to work together this holiday season and take the necessary steps to keep ourselves and others safe. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday.”Janet Stanek, Acting KDHE Secretary
This comes as the majority of Kansas counties are indicated as areas of high transmission based on CDC data. The state is also preparing for the Omicron variant. While it’s not been identified in Kansas yet, it has been detected in neighboring states like Missouri.
Prior state guidance released also recommended safe gatherings with family and friends, but now people who are fully vaccinated are also encouraged to wear masks in public and indoor settings as a precaution. Health officials are also recommending getting a booster dose, if eligible, to stay safe.
GET VACCINATED AND BOOSTED
In order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting fully vaccinated and receiving a booster dose.
Health officials are urging people to get the vaccines to protect themselves from the virus, slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.
COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized for people ages five and over. The COVID-19 booster shots are authorized for people ages 16 and over.
Doctors have encouraged people who are eligible to get vaccinated as hospitalizations increase. Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Medical Center said the majority of patients hospitals are seeing are unvaccinated.
“For months now, the vast majority of people going to the hospital have been unvaccinated,” Hawkinson said. “The vast majority of people dying have been unvaccinated. The vaccines are to help protect you, and reduce your risk of going to the hospital.”
Hawkinson said the vaccines can prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death. Scientists also expect the vaccines to help prevent severe illness in people infected with the Omicron variant.
To learn more about the vaccines, who is eligible to get vaccinated (or receive a booster shot), and schedule a vaccination appointment, click here.
Even if someone is not showing symptoms, they can still spread the virus.
KDHE recommends getting tested before spending the holidays with friends and family, especially in indoor settings where air circulation is limited.
While gatherings are still encouraged local doctors, like Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino with the Kansas Health Institute, have pointed to taking the necessary precautions to stay safe for COVID-19 before spending the holidays with friends and family.
“Now’s not the time to be reckless,” Dr. Pezzino said. “But knowing what we are getting into in terms of the situation, or the social environment around us, and then deciding if it’s a calculated risk we want to take or not.”
To find a free testing location in the state, click here.
WEAR A MASK, EVEN IF YOU’RE FULLY VAXXED
The CDC recommends you wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth in public indoor settings even if you are fully vaccinated.
If you or someone you are celebrating with has a weakened immune system, is at an increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated wear a mask while gathering as an added precaution.
TAKE TRAVEL PRECAUTIONS
It is recommended to delay travel until you are fully vaccinated. Whether you are fully vaccinated or not, health officials say it is important to know the travel recommendations and restrictions before your trip.
For information about domestic and international travel guidance for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, visit the CDC’s Travel page.