With the holiday season in full swing, people are gathering together again to reconnect with loved ones. However, data suggests another spike in cases of COVID-19 is likely. Extra precautions are still needed to slow the spread of the virus and its more contagious variants. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some tips for a safer holiday season. Incorporate as many layers of protection as possible at your holiday gatherings to keep all of your attendees safe. Consider the following options:
- Keep things small, especially if you invite seniors or people who are immunocompromised.
- Celebrate outdoors, or socially distanced indoors, to lower the chance of transmission.
- Have conversations with others about their vaccination status before you see them, and set boundaries ahead of time.
- Get a flu shot. The CDC estimates that flu shots in the U.S. reduce the risk of illness for 40-60% of the population.
This month, the CDC released new guidance concerning COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. Alongside the FDA, the CDC currently recommends the booster shot for individuals who have received a full series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (at least 6 months after their initial series of shots) and are:
- Age 65 years and older
- Age 18+ who live in health care or long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who has underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who works or lives in a high-risk setting
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, we have made every effort to meet the moment in terms of our response to the ever-changing circumstances. Our team’s connection to the community, along with forward thinking to potential hazards and challenges, has allowed us to respond quickly and efficiently throughout this crisis. To that end, as 2020 drew to a close we began preparing ourselves to assist the Territory with COVID-19 vaccination efforts on St. John. In November, we began reaching out to contacts in the healthcare field to get a better understanding of the COVID-19 vaccines that were being developed. Through short training sessions we were able to educate ourselves about the vaccines, and about vaccinations in general. We purchased additional PPE and secured donations from Good 360 to help the healthcare community prepare for the inevitable surge in PPE use that would result from any sort of mass-vaccination effort in the Territory. In January 2021, we developed messaging and content related to the vaccines across a variety of channels. We wanted to ensure that we could start debunking myths, providing facts, and answering questions about the vaccines as soon as possible to increase vaccine confidence in the St. John community. In February our team was vaccinated by the Island Health and Wellness Center, with our employees who are seniors or licensed emergency first receiving their doses first. We then began the process of collecting data from individuals across the island to help shape our outreach efforts. We spoke to over 500 St. John residents and asked them questions about whether they had received or planned on receiving the vaccine, along with additional demographic questions. Using this data we crafted specific messaging to reach certain segments of the community via phone calls and home visits to help answer questions and provide information from the VI Department of Health. In March, we were asked to assist in the mass-vaccination efforts on St. John. For the last five weeks we have partnered with the VI Department of Health, VITEMA, the Virgin Islands National Guard, the CDC, and the United States Department of Defense in running vaccination pop up clinics in Cruz Bay every Saturday. Our supplies, manpower, and knowledge of the community have been utilized to make vaccination efforts on St. John more robust. We have provided tables, chairs, PPE, and bottled water for staff and patients at every pop up. Our Go Team has done extensive outreach directly to residents’ homes to sign them up for future appointments, and picked up seniors and individuals with limited mobility to bring them to their appointments. We have also provided Spanish speaking translators and logistical assistance to the pop ups as needed. The trust of our donors has given us access to a significant amount of unrestricted funds, enabling us to meet immediate needs. Unrestricted funding is extremely important to the work that we do so that we do not have to hesitate to respond when an emergency happens. To support our vaccination efforts, and our efforts to prepare for the future, click here. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the VI Department of Health’s resource page; the CDC’s Vaccine FAQ page, and the Johns Hopkins guide for fully vaccinated individuals. You can also check out our vaccine Q&A with Sandy Colasacco, a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and the Clinical Executive Director of Island Health and Wellness.