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With fears of the omicron variant of COVID on the rise, many New Jerseyans are scrambling to find COVID tests, only to find that rapid and at-home tests are sold out in many pharmacies, and that lines to get PCR tests are hours long in some places. And while tests can bring peace of mind to those planning to gather for the holidays, COVID tests don’t replace the protection of being vaccinated.

No matter how you plan to celebrate, here are some tips to reduce the risk of contracting — and spreading– COVID over the holidays.

Get Vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID. It takes two weeks for full immunity, so if you get vaccinated today, keep in mind that you won’t be fully protected by Christmas, but it is better than not getting vaxxed. If you’re not fully vaccinated, consider delaying travel until you are.

Get Boosted. A booster is a third dose of the vaccine will produce an increase in COVID antibodies right away. Full protection comes two weeks following this additional shot.

Wear Masks. Wearing a mask, particularly when socializing indoors with people whose vaccination status you do not know, can be a wise choice to reduce the risk of COVID. Wear masks in indoor, crowded places such as while holiday shopping or in the airport. If you are not fully vaccinated, have a weakened immune system or are in an area of high transmission, wear a mask.

Open the Window. A well-ventilated room reduces the risk for spreading COVID. HEPA air purifiers can also be used.

Limit the Size of Your Gathering. It’s up to you whether you feel the need to cancel travel or gatherings, but if you do decide to have a holiday party, keep it small. Large indoor gatherings where people are eating and drinking are more risky than small parties.

Stay Home if You’re Sick. This one seems obvious, but now is not the time to risk your own health or the health of others by attending a party or gathering when you don’t feel well. Staying away from others when you’ll not well is the biggest gift.

For more information, check out the CDC’s Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays.

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