Local Health Experts Give Guidance on Holiday Gatherings as COVID-19 Metrics Rise

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DuPage County health experts are raising awareness about potential threats to public health and safety as people look to gather for the holidays amid rising COVID-19 metrics.

COVID-19 Metrics

As of Monday, DuPage County reported more than 642 new cases on average each day and 233 individuals hospitalized in the county’s six hospitals. It has prompted a 7-day rolling average of new cases reported each day and the number of hospitalizations to approximately double since Thanksgiving.

“As hospitalizations related to COVID-19 remain at a high level here in DuPage County, we are concerned about the next few weeks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise,” DuPage County Health Department Executive Director Karen Ayala said in a statement. “We have the tools to stop the spread of these highly contagious variants. We’re encouraging everyone to use these tools including vaccinations, and booster shots, wearing a high-quality mask consistently when indoors around those you don’t live with, getting tested when you have symptoms or before you gather indoors with others, and increasing the flow of fresh air in indoor spaces to keep virus particles from accumulating inside are essential. Each of these tools provides an extra layer of protection.”

A majority of the county’s hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 cases that have been reported since Dec. 15 involve persons not fully vaccinated. Authorities define a fully vaccinated individual as anyone having received at least two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Health and Safety Precautions

Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital, encourages people to take precautions during the holidays.

“If you’re planning family gatherings, you can do a lot of things to minimize that risk,” Pinsky said. “First and foremost, make sure that everyone there is fully vaccinated and if eligible has the booster, and all the children are vaccinated if they’re above the age of 5. Then, keep the gatherings as small as possible and only with those family members and only with the most important people who you feel should be there. One other layer of protection you could consider is testing. Some people are doing this. There are rapid Antigen tests you can get the day of.”

The advantage of an Antigen test compared to a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is it provides you real time information giving you a better idea if you’re infected that day, Pinsky said.

Omicron Variant

Pinsky said he is concerned about the Omicron and how it may become the dominant variant locally, though there is no indication it has superseded the Delta variant.

He cautions people from letting their guards down completely during the holidays, even if they are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“There can be a lot more infections transmitted in vaccinated people more so than we saw before, and this could impact people who are more vulnerable and lead to more cases in unvaccinated individuals too,” Pinsky said. “That can lead to more hospitalizations and death. The solution is more people need to get vaccinated.”

As of today, Edward Hospital in Naperville is treating 53 inpatients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 35 are not vaccinated and 11 are vaccinated/breakthrough. There are no reported deaths of an inpatient with a confirmed case of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.

“I think a lot of safety is afforded just through masking and may not have to test if there’s no other reason to and everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted,” Pinsky said.

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.

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